Should Mitt Romney discuss Mormonism like JFK discussed Catholicism?

In 1960, Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy spoke to a gathering of Protestant church ministers in Houston about his Catholicism and why American voters shouldn’t be concerned with a Catholic president. Now as Mitt Romney runs as the Mormon candidate for U.S. President, some are asking whether he will or should give a similar speech to dispel concerns about his being Mormon.

In fact, an op-ed piece in the New York Times today suggests that Mr. Romney should give such a speech when he speaks at the commencement of Regent University, a school founded by evangelical Christian Pat Robertson.

John F. Kennedy opened his speech by pointing out that there were bigger things to worry about than his religion, but then went on to successfully dispel concerns anyway.

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.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim–but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, 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–where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind–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. (Source)

I think there are much more pressing things to discuss than Mitt Romney’s religion. A discussion of real issues will more aptly reveal Mitt’s dispositions and character anyway. Why bother discussing causes if there are no symptoms?

If Mitt chooses to deliver such a speech, JFK’s speech provides a good precedent. But it’s a bit lame that it should matter to anyone. Those who would create a religious test for office are trampling the rights to which we all lay claim.

Joseph Smith, 1843:

If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination. (via)