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. Demsrules

    Just goes to show you- if you pay the right amount of money, you can get just about anything or anyone. I'll pray if they paid me the right amount of money also. On second thought- my prayers cannot be bought!

    August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Prufrock

      Interesting. So why didn't the stimulus payout three years ago manage to preemptively buy the election for President Obama? Or even put it on layaway? That was $787 billion in down payment...

      August 27, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  2. cassamandra

    Hm, shouldn't the headline be "GOP bans its candidate's religious leaders from speaking at the convention"? At least, I didn't see any Mormon prayers scheduled.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Prufrock

      LDS prayers are quite similar to other Christian faiths'. We also have no problem with the idea that anyone, of any faith, can address Deity and expect to be heard and respected. Since this is not a religious event, much less a Mormon one... why would there be any expectation of an LDS orator?

      Plus, you know... the headliner is Mormon. I think that's enough, don't you? It's a bit of a stretch to infer a ban from all that.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • souptwins

      I read a report that a close friend of Romney and local LDS leader from the Boston area would offer one of the prayers. LDS leadership goes out of its way to stay politically neutral except when it comes to moral issues (prop 8 & abortion).

      August 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  3. IslandAtheist

    If Romney's religion kept him from fighting in the Vietnam War, why doesn't his religion keep him from being the Commander-n-Chief?

    August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • cassamandra

      That is a _fantastic_ question. Though chances any of the softballers chosen to moderate the debates will actually ask it are slim. CNN, take note!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Prufrock

      Since his religion did not prevent him from participating in Vietnam, the rest of your question is invalid. I know many, many Vietnam vets, WWII vets, Korean war vets, etc, etc, that are LDS.

      In fact, your comment makes it clear that all you know of the Mormons is hearsay. Cheers.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • souptwins

      LDS people serve in the military at a higher rate than any other religious group (feel free to look it up). All 19-24 yr old males are expected to serve a mission. Romney just happened to be that age during Vietnam. He registered upon his return from France and his number was not called up. No dodging about it! Are you suggesting people not be allowed to practice their religion?

      August 27, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  4. Leo

    Republicans don't stand for what they used to at all. They are simply the party of faith. It would be a great time for another party who was actually serious about fiscal conservation to make a move. And before anybody says that isn't true, it's the defense budget that is clearly wacked. 80% of all personal income tax goes to defense. Pretty clear on the number, not so clear on the justification why it can't be anything else but that number but yet everything else is to blame.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  5. BJJSchecter

    9. AIPAC

    August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  6. Drew

    Time for the GOP to leave religion in the churches, synagogs, temples, mosques, etc., where it belongs and out of politics and government, where it doesn't belong. Enough!

    August 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Interested48

      Exactly why I can't ever consider anything the Republicans have to offer. They're such hypocrites. Spouting religion all the time but their policies do nothing but hurt people. If you're going to be religious, at least live it!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Isaac hits the Teapublican National Convention...


    Obama/Biden 2012!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  8. SoFunny

    There is only ONE WAY not eight. Mormans do not beleive that Jesus Christ was the Son of God (John:16).

    Therefore, there is NO argument, as a CHRISTAIN I will not vote for Romney!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Jessie

      ChriSTAIN? You got that right!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • souptwins

      Actually LDS people DO believe Christ is the only begotten Son of God who lived and died that all mankind may be resurrected and atoned for sin, and rose on the third day. Please feel free to look up the 13 Articles of Faith which are brief statements of LDS beliefs. "We believe in God the Eternal Father, in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." We also believe all people have the right to worship how, where, and what they may. We just wish others followed that same belief.

      August 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  9. nolimits3333

    Only an anti science party would schedule a convention in Florida in the middle of hurricane season.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  10. BlindFaithisSin

    God has nothing to do with relgion...and neither should politics!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  11. DIANA

    I remember this happened once even though I don't remember who the nominee was but it scared the country so bad that a Democrat won. I hope this has the same results. I consider myself spiritual but I don't want government telling me how or when I should worship.

    Also – don't Mormon's believe that if you're not one of them, you won't go to heaven?

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • souptwins

      To me these are the only 2 Mormon principles that have any pertinence to electing a POTUS. If a Pres. respects people's right to worship as they see fit and honor the separation of Church and State, that's all that should matter. Romney seems far more committed to doing that than the others.
      From LDS Articles of Faith:
      "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
      We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law
      If all people and religions followed these principles, we wouldn't be talking about religion and politics in the same sentence.

      August 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  12. Isaac the thinker

    I'll give you 8 ways faith matters: Number one: IT SHOULDN'T. Numbers 2-8, you are all delusional.

    GOP Convention... I'm guessing your 'god' doesn't approve... tossing a hurricane at your doorstep. Stay home wife beaters, racists, and h!cks.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  13. DandyStryker

    Given the chance, Republicons will use the Federal Government to cram their religion down the thoats of all Americans.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  14. rad666

    Hmm........Seperation of church and state, anyone? I do not want your religious beliefs involved in my government, no matter what your religion is period.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Jessie

      AMEN! We already have examples of governments run alongside religion. Hmmm....let me think...Iraq, Iran, etc etc etc.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  15. Layla

    I don't know about those at the convention, but the rest of America is praying for a new President.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |

    Funny how the Republican party has so many similarities with Hitlers views and opinions........ Pretty god damn frightening if you ask me.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Layla

      Not NEARLY as frightening as the Marxist in the White House and the rest of the Democrat party.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • blogosphere

      The Germans used to have on their belt buckles: "Gott Mit Uns". Romney new slogan! Coincidence? Noooooooooooo!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  17. Jessie

    Does the GOP REALLY take us all for fools? And why? Just because we don't have as much money to throw around?
    They are really screwing themselves in the bunghole by trying to be ALL things to ALL people (AKA distraction ploy).

    August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • WDinDallas

      Now that is the pot calling the kettle black.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Layla

      They do not have to portray you as fools. You do a fine imitation all by yourself.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  18. Mic

    Who on earth takes these guys seriously? I would love to have a discussion with some Romney/Ryan supporters to see what's going on in those brains. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Prufrock

      You probably wouldn't enjoy the conversation. It's hard to meet intelligent and rational people who disagree completely with your point of view. It can be painful to realize that positions you considered unassailable are in fact quite vulnerable to challenge.

      The process of rebuilding your worldview takes time and discomfort. Most people take the easy way out – ignoring the opposing view and calling their interlocutor a hypocrite or some other nice epistemic closure.

      Going out on a limb – I don't think your worldview is going in for revision any time soon. 😉

      August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  19. tony

    Wasn't it the Pharisees that got Jesus executed?

    August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  20. faboge

    REPUGLICANS are a danger to the country and they know it!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |

      The REPUBLICAN Party is an enemy of the State.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:58 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.