Romney responds to polls with speech on his Mormon faith

Lindsey Parietti

In a speech this morning designed to quell voter uncertainty about his Mormon faith, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned his religion by name only once while repeatedly reaffirming his faith in God and prayer.

“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,” said the former Massachusetts governor, speaking at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

“Some say that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they’re right, so be it, but I think they underestimate the American people.”    

Romney peppered his speech with the words freedom, liberty, God and faith, citing the practices of Catholics, evangelical Christians, Baptists, Jews and Muslims that he admires.  

“Religious tolerance would be a shallow principal indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree,” he said.

Today’s speech follows polls showing that Romney, who has focused much of his campaign in Iowa where he commanded a clear lead, is now tied with Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister bolstered by evangelical Christian support.   

Throughout his speech Romney both echoed and overtly referred to then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Texas address about his Catholic faith.

“Like him I am an American running for president,” Romney said. “I do not define my candidacy by my religion … let me assure you that no authorities of my church will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.”

Romney repeatedly reassured the public of his belief in God, Jesus Christ and prayer, but did not discuss any of the tenets of the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

According to Adam Christing, a documentary filmmaker and scholar of Mormonism, many conservative Christians do not recognize Mormonism as a branch of Christianity because it teaches that God was once like man and that he created humanity with a wife.

David Foster, a Mormon from Marlborough, Mass. said the religion is too widespread for misconceptions and doubts of its legitimacy to continue.

“The outcome I hope for is that people will come away convinced that (Romney) really is a legitimate Christian, period,” Foster said before the speech.

Foster has known Romney through the Mormon Church for 25 years.

“There’s a legitimate role that religion can play, not officially, but in our culture and the way it informs peoples values,” he said. “(Political candidates) don’t have to neuter themselves in terms of religion.”

MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer Lindsey Parietti can be reached at lindsey.parietti@cnc.com