Mitt Romney

By Joe Vena

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, while speaking to an audience at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, publicly yet subtly scolded a controversial Conservative leader who denounced Mormonism and Islam. But can we be sure that he would have done the same had it not been his own religion that was being attacked?

Romney’s crosshairs were set on Bryan Fischer, a director at the American Family Association, who was scheduled address the crowd immediately after the candidate spoke on Saturday. Fischer has gone on record as saying that Mormons, as well as Muslims, hold “a completely different definition of who Christ is” than the founding fathers did. As a result, not only does Fischer believe that people of that faith should not hold public office, but also that they should be stripped of First Amendment protections.

Although Romney did not address Fischer by name, he made it clear that he felt Fischer’s comments were uncalled for.

“One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line,” Romney said. “Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.” He also went on to say that “The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart.”

Fischer arrived on stage only minutes later. While he did not make reference to any specific religion, he did say that the next person to take presidential office “needs to be a man of sincere authentic genuine Christian faith,” and that “we need a president who believes in the same creator as who the founders believed.”

While Fischer’s ignorance is stunning, I can’t help but wonder if Romney would have been so quick to bite back at Fischer had the Mormon Church, which his family has profound bonds to, not been a target of Fischer’s comments.

We, as a nation, undeniably still live in the remnants of post-9/11 Islamophobia, especially at the depths of the Republican voter base. Had Islam been the only religion in question, I find it very unlikely that Romney would have put his presidential ticket on the line to defend a religion that most of his potential supporters still hold a blind grudge against. Rather, I think he threw a tantrum that his beliefs were beleaguered.

Romney also made no specific mention of a certain religion in his retort, in an all-too-clear fence-walking technique to distance his faith from Islam while still defending it against those who dare to insult it.

Fischer, who is very clearly a relic of racism and religious zealotism from times past, would have most likely gone ignored as a bigot and a crackpot who only appeals to the most despicable of those in this country had Romney not addressed his comments. However, Romney made it very clear through his attempt at subtlety that he is willing to verbally defend the rights American citizens have to practice their chosen faith… but only if he approves of that faith.