What Romney Should Have Said
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President 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.The above is from Kenndy's speech on religion and the presidency. Romney also gave a speech recently on the subject. While it appeared that he, like Kennedy, came out in support of religious pluralism, the differences become apparent when reading the two.
I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--
and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
Because Romney's pluralism appears to have stopped when it came to people who don't identify with a religion or who would consider themselves atheist. Kennedy's included them. Religions shapes public policy for Romney. For Kennedy, there role is more circumspect.
You can find the two speeches..Kennedy's here and Romney's here and compare for yourself. I think we've gone backwards in the last 40 years relating religion and politics. Now religious language and endorsements by God and Jesus are the norm for both parties.
It may be that Kennedy's language about religion was too privatized to have ever been true. But the ubiquitousness of religious language today has made it difficult to move to a society that really attempts to include all people.
Nor does such language make us religious folks aware of the limits that ought to be in place. The limits placed by humility and a sense that religion's role is one of contributing to a common struggle for a better world, not its sole author.