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8 ways faith will matter at the Republican National Convention
Paul Ryan, left, is Catholic, while Mitt Romney is Mormon.
August 25th, 2012
06:58 PM ET

8 ways faith will matter at the Republican National Convention

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN)–For the next four days, the eyes of the political world will be on Tampa, Florida, the site of the Republican National Convention (which will now get started Tuesday, after Tropical Storm Isaac cancelled Monday's events).

Though politics will be the name of the game, it's a safe bet that religion will also play a major role. The convention opens with a prayer from a Hispanic evangelical leader and closes with a benediction from a Catholic cleric who's sometimes called "America's pope."

In between, balloons will drop on the first Mormon to be nominated by a major political party to be president of the United States. Here are eight ways faith will matter this week. What did we leave out? Let us know in comments and we'll expand our list as warranted.

1. The ghost of Todd Akin
Most people couldn't pick him out of lineup and he won't be attending the convention this week. But the Missouri Senate candidate who claimed that women could prevent conception in cases of "legitimate rape" opened a rift in the Republican Party, with GOP chieftains pressuring him to drop out while some powerful conservative Christian activists rally to his defense. Those activists are using the Akin episode to allege that the Republican Party wants quash their socially conservative agenda even as it happily accepts their votes. If the infighting continues into this week, there could be a battle for GOP's soul at a moment when the GOP wants to project unity.

2. The M word
Even now that he's talking more about his religious faith, Mitt Romney almost never refers specifically to Mormonism or to his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yet Romney has held a series leadership positions in his church. Will the Republican Party continue to studiously avoid one of its presidential candidate's defining characteristics? Or will some convention speaker make a case for why Romney's Mormonism is an asset? Will Romney himself mention his religion as he accepts his party's nomination?

3. Ladies night (or week)?
For months, the GOP has been on the defensive, as Democrats say Republicans are waging a "war on women," a theme the Dems began sounding when the American bishops blasted the White House for its contraception mandate for insurance companies earlier this year. This week, Republicans face a delicate balancing act in trying to assuage the concerns of moderate women voters while also satisfying its religiously conservative base. (See ghost of Todd Akin, above). A big part of that mission falls to Ann Romney, the Republican nominee's wife, and to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, both of whom have choice speaking slots.

4. The possibility of a culture war speech
"There is a religious war going on in this country," former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the 1992 Republican convention in a primetime address. "It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America." There are still debates over whether the speech, which provoked a media frenzy, helped or hurt President George H.W. Bush, who would go on to lose to Bill Clinton. But the Republican Party is keen on avoiding such moments as it tries to win over independents this fall. There's some nervousness about what Rick Santorum will say in his convention address.

5. Religious liberty
Many conservatives are livid over the Obama administration's requirement that health insurers offer free contraceptive coverage, even for employees of Catholic institutions. Plus, talking up religious liberty is likely less of a turnoff for moderate voters than is talk about bans on abortion and gay marriage, traditionally the top concerns of religious conservatives. Catholics and evangelicals, two key voting blocs, have been buzzing about religious liberty for months, with mega-pastor Rick Warren recently canceling plans for a presidential forum with Obama and Romney and announcing plans for one on religious liberty instead.

6. Israel
When it comes to foreign policy, look for convention speakers to try outdo one another in pledging support for the Jewish State - and in railing against Obama for what they'll allege are his administration's shabby treatment of a key American ally. Israel is especially important to the GOP's evangelical base, some of whom see a biblical bond with the Jewish people and some who believe Israel must be in Jewish control before the Second Coming can happen. Mitt Romney included Israel as one of his marquee stops on his recent foreign trip, including a photo-op at Jerusalem's Western Wall.

7. Hurricane theology
Will some televangelist claim that Tropical Storm Isaac, which is headed toward the Gulf Coast, is God's way of punishing the GOP for insufficient piety? It wouldn't be the first time a prominent preacher blamed severe weather on American insubordinance.

8. "America's pope"
The convention's closing prayer will be delivered by Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who leads the American Catholic bishops and is sometimes referred to as America's pope. It's a good indication of just how important the Catholic vote is thought to be this year, with Catholics accounting for 1 in 4 Americans and considered to be the quintessential swing bloc. Whoever wins these voters will likely win the White House.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mormonism • Politics

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soundoff (1,567 Responses)
  1. MagicPanties

    Hey, Muslim starts with M and Mormon starts with M. hmmm....

    August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • MagicPanties

      and 6 letters each, oh my...

      August 27, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • catharsus

      What are you...like 13 years old? When does school start?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  2. Sarah

    yadda, yadda, yadda . . . AMEN . . . . now lets go to the strip clubs!!!!!!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      @Sarah. Are you gonna 'show' us yours? I'm so there with ya.:-)

      August 27, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    19.2% of the american population are unbelievers. Another 30% of the american population list themselves as christians just because they like being in the social club and don't want their loving christian friends and family alienating them even though they have realized over the years that all this garbage they were brainwashed with as children is really quite laughable.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • catharsus

      Interesting. I have not seen that particular study. Can you provide proof of your assertion that those of us professing to be Christian simple want to be a part of a club? This is, again (sigh), an example of liberal non-believers (a redundancy in terms, of course) projecting upon conservatives their own hatred and anger. However, if we do the same, we are branded as "haters". (Again, sigh...)

      August 27, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Kingbee King

      Here is a Mormon produced video that explains the history of Mormonism, it will educate the non-mormon as to how the organization actually came into being. The Youtube videpo takes 6 min. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q6brMrFw0E

      August 27, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  4. winchester74

    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    Mark 10:25

    August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Which God?

      @w74. No, it's better that the camel be greased to slip into the eye of a needle.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. John

    This is plain wrong. Religion should not play a role in government in the US. This is no different than the muslim whack-jobs in the middle east. The bible's nothing but a book, mormonism is some kind of mystery cult, jews are a people.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  6. seb

    Since when was USA so openly a theocracy?

    August 27, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  7. jack

    Will faith matter when they all meet up at the Strip club later?

    August 27, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  8. Xman

    Well, at least now, President Obama can declare northern Florida as a disaster zone so it can get some help.

    But not because of Isaac, but instead of the GOP National Convention.

    Never underestimate the power of collective stupidity (and ignorance).

    August 27, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  9. Drumcode

    How about a prayer from a muslim cleric? lol

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  10. S.R.

    The Mormon religion is a cult that violated the bible and Christianity by adding their book to the bible. He had four deferments from the Vietnam draft. True Christians should not vote for this rich pampered cult member coward!!!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    The bible is like a "Nigerian Email" from the bronze-age.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Sarah

      That's funny, Dyslexic doG

      August 27, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Cq

      More like the license agreement that comes with soft.ware, where most users just skip to the end and click "I agree" without actually reading it.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • halfbakedlunatic

      Very true!

      August 27, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  12. MagicPanties

    My invisible pink unicorn is praying for all y'all wingnuts at the convention.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  13. DANILLE

    ALL THAT PRAYING AND THEIR GOD STILL HAVE THE HURRICANE. SOUND LIKE THEIR GOD IS TOO BUSY GETTING HER NAIL DONE

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • catharsus

      You might actually be able to kill two birds with one stone if you re-enrolled in one of your local schools. First, you wold, in all likelihood, learn to string together meaningful words in a coherent sentence that we could all understand. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you may be able (in one of your advanced courses) to formulate coherent thought processes. This, though, is a good example of why liberals should re-think their positions.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  14. erik shnaghai

    Separation of Church and State. They just don't get it. If it's not CHRISTIAN it's no good. This is why we must vote for Obama.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • catharsus

      Unbelievable. I cannot fathom why the Founding Fathers didn't establish a political and intellectual competency test prior to casting a cote. Un-FREAKING-believable...

      August 27, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  15. dreamer96

    The New American GOP Party....the American Taliban Fascist Party...

    August 27, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • catharsus

      Typical liberal, but not unexpected, frankly. You secular "progressives" deride us for our faith, which was a principal upon which the country was founded. As conservatives, we challenge you only on your ideas, or lack thereof, none of which resemble any founding principle. Yet it is we who you put down. This is at its simplest and basest form, a prime example of the failure of our public schools.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  16. Randall

    Just a John,

    You , and people like you are what is wrong with the world today. Why dont you shut up and listen instead of throwing your stupidity around and showing everyone just how stupid you are ! Get a clue !

    August 27, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    As soon as religious lunacy is removed from politics and affairs of the state it won't matter. As soon as you are laughed at for declairing you are a person of faith it won't matter. As soon as any politician is laughed off the stage for claiming "god" speaks to them it won't matter. Until these things come to pass..... IT MATTERS.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  18. Dave

    Religion is the opium of the people...

    August 27, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  19. Foreverwar

    Their religion is greed.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  20. Jack

    Religion and faith are fine. Just keep them out of politics. I have my religion and I don't want your religion shoved in my face.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:04 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.