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Message Ed Menken




And Mainstream Media is on Their Side

As the primary election season heats up, and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee slug it out to prove to the religious right who is more religious, and therefore more worthy of their support, the mainstream media covers the wrestling match with the delicacy of someone tip-toeing through a minefield. And with just as much fear.

Enormous attention was paid to Romney’s recent “Faith in America Speech”, which was originally billed as an effort to clarify his Mormonism and appeal to voters – especially religious conservatives – to convince them that he’s the best candidate to continue and even broaden George W. Bush’s disastrous faith-based government. Introduced by Bush Senior at his presidential library at Texas A&M University, Romney had a running head start in the race to establish his religious credentials, and the media swallowed the blather like lap dogs gobbling up a bowl of Vittles.

The speech was praised by most commentators as something comparable to John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to an auditorium full of Baptist ministers in Houston in September, 1960. In that historic presentation, Kennedy’s purpose was to assure his audience, and the entire electorate, that his Catholic faith would in no way influence or interfere with his policies or governance, should he become president. However, Romney’s speech was anything but comparable to Kennedy’s. Indeed, Kennedy’s presentation included the following statement:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

When Romney delivered his speech, he tried to align himself with Kennedy by stating…

"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

He then followed those reasonable sounding words with…

“As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America's 'political religion' - the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”

Now, that statement is where it starts to get interesting. I’ve always understood that when one places his or her hand on the Bible while taking an oath of office, the promise to uphold and defend the Constitution is to the people, not to God, and that the hand on the Bible is intended only to assure the veracity of that commitment to the people. And the rest of that particular paragraph, while it sounds encouraging, is nothing more than a verbal “bait-and-switch.” After a few breaths and some more deceptive verbiage, Romney then began to ease into the contradiction…

"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.”

This is where Romney begins his unabashed pandering to the religious right. He, like virtually all of the right-wing religious zealots who want to impose their own beliefs on the rest of us, seems to be fond of repeating the lie about how those of us with different beliefs want to “remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God.” He twists the intent of the founders – which was unequivocally to establish a secular nation – and echoes the words of some of today’s most extreme fanatics who insist that secularism is now a “religion.” These are words that are near and dear to fundamentalists and most Evangelicals. And they serve no purpose other than to elicit an “Amen” from those who would have this country officially declared a “Christian nation”, contrary to the clear and deliberate intent of the founders.

But the mainstream media won’t touch the fiery hot potato. Rather than expose the deceptions and distortions of the religious right, they sheepishly adopt their language, referring to “values voters” without questioning what those “values” are, and never, ever, challenging people like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and others, on their unmistakable defiance and absolute disregard of the Constitution. I refer here to Article VI, which states, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

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Ed Menken is a life-long, self-described "unapologetic progressive", a proud member of the ACLU, and a strong supporter of Barack Obama.
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