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. lib

    I believe in God but I don't think God wants me to vote for Mitt Romney. GOd says we should love and help our neighbors. Mitt believes in helping himself. The charities Mitt gives to are Mormon charities and Mitt gets a big write off from them. One of Mitt's loopholes. If there was any sincerity in Mitt I would think differently but the man tells on himself.President Obama has more class and I believe him to be a better person who truly cares about the People in America. Who says Mitt is a better business man or can create jobs? The GOP haven't created any jobs yet. Bush did destroy jobs. The folks we are helping are out hardworking American family who lost everything under Bush.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  2. FZM

    No wonder they had the thing right down the road from Disney World. There's a good reason for "separation of church and state". The state has to deal with realities. It's bad enough that a sizable portion of the population believe in a mysterious spirit in the sky that decided to send his "only begotten son" to an obscure group of goat-herders, back when such claims were wholly unverifiable. We can't have the state and its laws based upon such nonsense. For milennia, adherents to this "faith" have had us believing that the same god who made people gay wanted them punished for the way "he" made them. There's a big universe out there, but you've got to expand your mind past the arrogant crap that there's some kind of omnipotent being out there that was so negligent as to leave his "prized creations" alone with an agent of "his" biggest nemesis in "Paradise", while they were mentally no more than toddlers, having no "knowledge of good and evil". Get real.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  3. rad666

    And religion gets to shape policy tax free.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  4. Al

    The term "separation of church and state" is the biggest misnomer in political history. It has never existed, anywhere. If they truly believed in it, you'd never see anything like opening prayers at the GOP convention (I assume the Democrats will do the same, so this isn't a knock against the right specifically), and you wouldn't have presidents and candidates kowtowing to "evangelical leaders" all the time, which to me is no different than a president or candidate consulting with the Pope, the only difference being the evangelical leaders are Americans. The personal faith of a president should be his own business and not play a part in his governance. Sadly that's a pie-in-the-sky ideal. I wonder what would happen if an atheist or non-denominational president were ever to be elected. As if that's ever gonna happen in the modern era where political affiliation is almost treated as religion anyway.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  5. JK

    The M word. You mean bashing Muslims...not Mormonism. Why confuse readers?

    August 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  6. RustyHinges8

    God didn't create anythiing is his / her image. Man evolved.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  7. Andrea

    I don't get this. Why is it that they can open up convention with a prayer, but you can't open up a high school graduation with one. They took prayer out of schools and just about everything else. If there is a place that needs prayer it is schools

    August 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • SepChurchState

      Separation of Church & State/Freedom of Religion is one of the most important founding policies of our country. NO RELIGION should affect our government's policies. Which prayer do you suggest we open our school days with? Or would you like to go through them all? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions_and_spiritual_traditions

      August 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Fearless Freep


      I don't get this. Why is it that they can open up convention with a prayer, but you can't open up a high school graduation with one. They took prayer out of schools and just about everything else. If there is a place that needs prayer it is schools

      So what prayer would you put back in school ?
      The Christian one, or the Jewish one, or the Muslim one ?
      Prayer has NOT been taken out of school.
      You are perfectly free to say a prayer in school.
      Quietly to yourself.
      You just cant force anybody else to say your prayer.
      Is there a part of that you dont get ?
      Some people really are stupid.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Ben Jordan

      every person is allowed to pray in school. It was not taken out of anything.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    Mormonism started when a man put magical "seer" stones into his hat and then put the hat over his face for days at a time and dictated the book of Mormon to a friend.

    Are you people kidding me?!?!?!?!?!?!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Top_News

      And Jesus, the savior of the world, was born in a dirty old barn. Wow. Are you kidding me?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  9. cj1

    Is bashing one's religion the right thing to do? Doesnt sound very christian like to me

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • donner

      Bashing the Mormon church is bashing a cult, not a religion.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  10. SepChurchState

    I don't understand how the GOP completely ignores the purpose of separation of church & state and freedom of religion. It's one of the most important founding policies of our country. I grew up christian/catholic, so you could say i'm a part of the religious majority in the US. I'm not one of those self centered individual that is ignorant enough to believe that "their religion" should be in the white house. NO RELIGION should affect our government's policies. Period. Here's a brilliant idea... let's redo the "government" backed religious military campaigns of old... The Crusades.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Vidyashanti

      The irony is Romney is a Mormon but is afraid to call a Mormon Cleric to open or close the convention. He is too concerned about 'Hispanic", Evangelical' and 'Catholic' prayers. Is this for the love of "GOD', or 'Religion" or pure opportunism. ?
      Hippocrates -Thy names are R & R.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  11. RustyHinges8

    They're going to have to have LOTS of religion at the Convention....because it will take an act of God to get them elected.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  12. naksuthin

    Thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath; and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger." Ezekiel 13:13

    God is sending a message tous Republicans. Repent. Sell all your possessions and give to the poor. Feed the hungry. Minister to the sick. God is angry with us. (Michelle Bachmann)

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  13. Jim J

    If God isn't real, how did he create man in his own image? Checkmate, atheists!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Veritas

      Because we created him on our image you dolt....

      August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  14. organically

    Religion is the biggest scam in the history of humanity

    August 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    The origin of Mormonism is a man putting magical "seer" stones into his hat and then putting the hat over his face for days at a time and dictating the book of Mormon to a friend.

    Are you people kidding me?!?!?!?!?!?!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  16. BOb the Prairie Dog

    How many more times do we have to say this?!? NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your money (or in this case your money AND your vote.) Any argument for or against the existence of a god or gods is pure and simple fallacy. Just because Grandma told you something, doesn't make it true.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  17. Hiway

    NEWS BREAK! Announcing the new United Theocratic States of America.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  18. The Film Professor

    Will everyone at the convention be required to wear the magic underwear that Mitt wears to be closer to God? Just wondering,

    August 27, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Top_News

      Only if priests wear their magic white collars and nuns wear their magic black habits.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Hiway

      Good one! I don't think many people know LDS adherents, especially women, must wear prescribed undies. Wonder if by some miracle he's eleceted if his first Executive Order will be that we all have to wear them.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  19. RustyHinges8

    They can't have a real representation of the Mormans at the Convention, because Mormanism is not a religion.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Top_News

      Wow. You don't know anything about the LDS Church.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  20. AgonyF

    Give God what's right – Not what's left.

    This is what they tell themselves...

    August 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      @Agony. It would be Agony if I gave god my "right" nut. No thanks.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:42 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.