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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  December 18, 2007
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Terry Eastland on Mitt Romney

To his credit, Mr. Romney made it clear in his "Faith in America" speech that he did not have a dilemma, because he chose his religion over political opportunism, and he has been campaigning on values and executive experience and not as a religious panderer.

With Mike Huckabee obviously campaigning as a man defined by his faith, Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland pointedly asked whether Mitt Romney "can praise faith in general without being defined by his faith in particular,' in an article titled "Mitt's Mormon Dilemma."

I believe that the answer is yes.

Mr. Eastland: "The question that has preoccupied the Mitt Romney campaign since its outlset is whether voters will hold his Mormon faith against him."

To his credit, Mr. Romney made it clear in his "Faith in America" speech that he did not have a dilemma, because he chose his religion over political opportunism, and he has been campaigning on values and executive experience and not as a religious panderer.

Mr. Romney: ""There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

The right question is not whether voters will hold his Mormon faith against him (some will), but whether or not they should (they should not, because Mitt's values are America's values and a President's personal religious preference does not become the national religion).

Mr. Eastland: "The question assumed greater urgency in late November when polls showed Romney had lost his lead in Iowa--which kicks off the primary schedule with its caucus on January 3--to Mike Huckabee. These polls also indicated that evangelical conservatives, who may constitute upwards of 40 percent of the caucus goers, were breaking for Huckabee, the former Southern Baptist pastor. Evangelicals have tended to object more strongly than most other religious groups to the beliefs of Mormons, with some regarding Mormonism as a 'cult.' A fair reading of Iowa was that Romney's religion was not helping him with evangelicals."

That's fair. But Mr. Huckabee's question to a writer for a New York Times Magazinearticle on him as to whether Mormons belief Satan is the brother of Jesus demonstrates that Mr. Huckabee is either too ignorant or too nasty to be President.

Mr. Eastland: "The Romney campaign's strategy is based on winning in Iowa and then, five days later, in New Hampshire. The theory is that these victories would generate the momentum necessary to go all the way. With that strategy imperiled by the movement of evangelicals in Iowa toward Huckabee--a movement that could well presage similar developments in South Carolina and Florida--Romney gave a speech on religion last week at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M."

It was an awesome speech that pointed out that the danger to America is posed by secular extremism, not by the election of a man named Mitt Romney who happens to be a Mormon.

Mr. Romney:

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?"

Mr. Romney not only shares those American values, but is ready to lead the battle against secular extrremism and for "judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests."

Mr. Eastland: "There was much in the speech that evangelicals and other religious conservatives will find to their liking. First, there was Romney's treatment of religious liberty. He said it is an inalienable right 'with which each is endowed by his Creator.' He implied it is, amongst all our liberties, the very first. Romney said he understood the religion clause of the First Amendment as being fundamentally about securing 'the free practice of religion' and pointed out that while achieving religious liberty has been a long and arduous process, its benefits--'diversity of cultural expression' and 'vibrancy of .  .  . religious dialogue'--are evident and contrast sharply with what you find in Europe, where established churches seem to be 'withering away.'"

All true! Mr. Romney is in sync with America's Founders and prepared to lead America back to the constitutional path the United States Supreme Court suddenly and senselessly left in 1947, in order to equate religion and irreligion under the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and case law up to then notwithstanding.

Mr. Eastland: "Second, Romney took a whack at those (unnamed) who take 'the notion of the separation of church and state .  .  . well beyond its original meaning' by seeking 'to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God.' It is, he said, 'as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America--the religion of secularism. They are wrong.' Romney called for public acknowledgments of God--'in ceremony and word.' God 'should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.' Romney even managed to work in a reference to judges, saying we need jurists who will stick to original meaning and let stand, for example, 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance."

In lamenting the absence of daily prayers during the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin asked: "[H]ow has it happened . . . that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? . . . [H]ave we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. . . . We have been assured . . . in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.'"

Mr. Romney is right and ready to lead to constitutional fidelity and respect for America's religious heritage.

Mr. Eastland: "Third, Romney affirmed that religion is a force for the nation's well-being. 'No movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people,' he said, citing as examples abolition in the 19th century and civil rights in the 20th. He also mentioned 'the right to life itself,' a movement not yet finished--and clearly of importance to many Republican primary voters."

Mr. Romney is right for Republicans AND Americans whom respect America's religious heritage.

Mr. Eastland: "These are points that, to one degree or another, the other Republican candidates would agree with. The unique challenge for Romney was to allay the concerns some people have about his church. One is whether as president he would take directions from the Mormon hierarchy in Salt Lake City. To this he said, drawing sharp lines of jurisdiction, 'Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.'"

This is a baseless fear. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is Mormon too. Is he a pawn of the Mormon hierarchy?

Mr. Eastland: "Nothing the current Mormon authorities have done suggests they would fail to stay within their churchly jurisdiction. Nor is there any aspect of Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts that suggests he failed to observe the distinction between church and state. The promise Romney made in his speech--that he would serve 'no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest,' but 'only the common cause of the people of the United States'--is credible."

Yes. And the fear that he would do otherwise is not credible.

Mr. Eastland: "Romney raised the question of 'how my own faith would inform my presidency, if I were elected,' and his answer included nothing distinctively Mormon. Instead, as he explained, where Mormonism supports the same values as other faiths, those values--such as that of 'compassionate care to others'--would inform his presidency."

Mr. Romney wants to be Commander-in-Chief, not Pastor-in-Chief.

Mr. Eastland: "Romney wanted his listeners to know, however, that the distinctions he draws between church and state do not mean that he only weakly believes. Indeed, he vigorously rejected the idea that he should distance himself from his religion--'say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do.' He continued: 'I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers--I will be true to them and to my beliefs.' Even, he said, if it costs him the election."

Bravo!

Mr. Eastland: "Here Romney came across as an authentic believer. For some voters, the issue, of course, is not that he believes but what he believes--i.e., what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches (such as that God has a material body and that there are other books of Scripture besides the Bible). LDS teachings are at variance with the basic beliefs of historic Christianity, held to not just by evangelicals, but also by mainline Protestants and Catholics."

When Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, ran for vice president in 2000, the fact that he did not believe (with Mr. Romney) "that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind" did not keep him from being nominated or seriously considered. Mr. Romney's religious beliefs are not disqualifying.

Mr. Eastland: "But Romney firmly declined to go into LDS beliefs (though, in the course of stating that 'my church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths,' he did profess that 'Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of mankind'). He gave a reason for his position: To have a presidential candidate 'describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines would enable the very religious test' for office prohibited in Article VI of the Constitution."

As Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), the Constitution contemplated that "the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvanist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils without any inquisition into their faith or mode of worship."

Mr. Eastland: "This article states: 'No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.' The constitutional scholar Akhil Amar has pointed out that this provision was well ahead of its time: In 1787 no fewer than 11 states, following the practice in Europe, actually imposed religious qualifications on government officials. Article VI, wrote Amar, made possible the election of 'presidents of various denominations and even some men with no explicit religious affiliation, such as Jefferson and Lincoln.'"

Yes.

Mr. Eastland: "Americans are of course free to vote for any reason, including the religion of a candidate. Knowing this, a candidate might offer his faith as a reason to vote for him--and perhaps not for someone else."

Yes again. But believers of different faiths can support each other, so long as they share the same basic values. The separation of church and state contemplated by the Constitution is an institutional one, not an absolute separation of church and state than bans God, religion and religious values from the public square.

Mr. Eastland: "Romney is evidently concerned that Huckabee is just that kind of candidate and that this explains in substantial part his changing fortune in Iowa. Huckabee has emphasized that his faith 'defines' him--and by implication his candidacy. He presents himself as a 'Christian leader.' Thus, while Romney has sought to downplay his Mormonism--it is not an electoral asset in Iowa--Huckabee has played up his faith. Romney's statement in his speech that 'I do not define my candidacy by my religion' may fairly be read not only as an effort to calm anxieties about the prospect of a Mormon in the White House, but also as a response to how Huckabee is offering himself to Iowa voters."

The problem with Mr. Huckabee's approach is that he's running for President, not Pastor, and if being a Baptist minister is his big selling point, voters better look to someone else.

Mr. Eastland: "Romney hasn't directly challenged Huckabee on this, and chances are he won't. He is too risk-averse to do something so bold. He may wind up being the victim of a dynamic that he had no effective means of overcoming."

Mr. Romney's "Faith in America" speech was bold and brilliant. America's Founders would have been proud.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


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