Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Simple Question

Mike Huckabee, it is reported, has apologized to Mitt Romney for comments he made about the Mormon faith in an extended interview with the New York Times. In this piece, Huckabee explains the context of his remarks.

Here's what happened. The reporter asked Huckabee if he thought Mormonism was a religion or a cult. Huckabee reportedly responded that he thought it was a religion, but that he didn't know that much about it. Then he asks, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?" An innocent enough question, it would seem, given that the answer is, in fact, "yes."

But apparently it was enough to set off the press, who wondered if it was truly an innocent question, or a politically-motivated attempt to focus attention on the perceived strangeness of Romney's faith. Huckabee felt obligated to apologize to Romney when they met on stage at yesterday's Republican debate, even though Huckabee claims he was genuinely curious and never meant to draw Romney's faith - or any theological issues - into the campaign.

Just for argument's sake, let's say Mike is being sincere. Though I disagree strongly with his beliefs, I do believe he holds them sincerely, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. I do this partly because it sheds light on a statement Huckabee made on "Larry King Live": "I'm trying to stay away from everything I can say. I'm being much more cautious now, because everything is being parsed."

It would seem Huckabee is beginning to notice how differently a presidential frontrunner is treated. He realizes- to a greater degree than ever - that part of the election process is surviving media scrutiny. The person who can handle knowing that every time they are in a public setting, virtually EVERYTHING they say and do is being recorded by someone. Probably several someones.

Huckabee's response? To pull back more, to say less. As Iowans endure/enjoy these final three weeks of personal attention on a national scale, Huckabee is going to be choosing his words very carefully.

But if part of what makes Mike Huckabee appealing is his seeming open and genuine nature, too much self-editing could put him at risk of losing some of that appeal.

So Mike...if you were truly being sincere, don't apologize for it. You didn't shower him with invective or call his faith ridiculous, or otherwise behave in a manner that might actually warrant an apology. You asked a simple question.

Which leads me to a simple question of my own: If you had to apologize because Romney's religion - or ANY issue of theology - is considered out of bounds in the electoral process, I want to know why.

I imagine your (and especially Governor Romney's) answer would be something along the lines of "because the Constitution dictates there is to be no religious test for the office of president. Not to mention the First Amendment."

But here's where this goes wrong for me. If religion isn't to be used as a lever in a presidential election, shouldn't it be equally out of bounds to call upon its "support" in referenda issues like one-man/one-woman marriage amendments? Our Constitution guarantees the freedom to practice whatever faith we choose, and that no state church may be established. It follows, therefore, that one religion or sect's beliefs cannot be allowed to trump any other's in the realm of civil polity.

Thus could I sing, and thus rejoice, but it is not so with me.

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