An anti-Mormon bigot heckled Romney at an event in Florida, calling him a “Pretender”; Romney responded, “We need a person of faith lead the country.” In other words, Romney believes, as Pat Robertson does, that atheists are unfit to lead.
Or, at least, that’s what he says to Evangelical crowds in Florida. To the mainstream media, he adopts a more moderate image, touting the importance of separation of church and state. On the one hand, he says, “Well, we have a separation of church and state in this country, and we should and it’s served us well.” On the other, like Obama, he opposes separation of church and state in practice. For example, on faith-based initiatives, he says,
Well, we don’t fund faith-based institutions, other than when they’re performing a non-faith role.
So right now we have faith-based initiatives in our state. Ann happens to lead that effort. And some of the faith-based institutions, particularly in the inner city, are doing a lot better job helping the poor, helping kids, helping families get on their feet than some government social service agencies.
So helping them in their secular role is, of course, fine.
There are several errors and sins of omission in that statement. Most importantly, there’s a huge problem of enforcement of laws against proselytizing on the state’s dime. In principle, religious organizations can get charity funding if a) they fund their charity activities from a separate, non-fungible account, b) the charity organization obeys all anti-discrimination laws, and c) the charity activities do not include any proselytization. In practice, none of the three conditions is seriously enforced.
It’s a trivial matter for a religious group to make its charity account de facto fungible. Engaging in charity is part of the job description; if the government didn’t put in a dime, the group would just step up its funding by spending less on religious activities. When Islamist groups engage in charity, Western governments often outlaw them based on ties to terrorism, even if the charity money is non-fungible. By the same argument, Dominionist groups that support discrimination against gays and atheists should be at least denied government funds, even if the government doesn’t outlaw giving them money.
Second, discrimination against gays in charity employment is routine. When New York State intended to start enforcing those laws, Salvation Army, which discriminates against gays, threatened to pull its entire operation from the state. Salvation Army went as far as engaging in lobbying against federal enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, while still enjoying a tax-exempt status.
And third, outside Romney’s disingenuous statements to the press, religious charities are always based on preaching. The prison initiative Brownback participated in was all about prayer. Obama’s Call to Renewal says that, “one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.”
In the rest of the interview, he keeps weaseling, waffling, flip-flopping, and triangulating. He first claims that “Abortion is taking human life” and then weasels out of answering the inevitable question of what the penalty should be. George Stephanopoulos tells him, “Murder is illegal in every state,” and he answers by spouting something about morals.
On gay rights, he begins by saying he’s against discrimination, and then continues by saying that “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has worked well”; presumably, that the US military dismissed Arab translators, who were in shortage, because they were gay, does not conflict with working well. As expected, he’s against gay marriage even though he still says he’s for equal rights.
One of the advantages of Brownback is that I know where he stands. I know that when he rants about morality or abortion, he means it. In contrast, Romney is just an overall liar. As a secularist I can’t fathom even being neutral on him because of his open anti-atheist bigotry. Equally well, if I were a Dominionist I’d be suspicious of him because of his constant waffling on cultural issues.