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. southernwonder

    what does bible say about outsourcing our jobs, giving tax cuts to the rich, raising election money frm the wall street and having tax dodging accounts in cayman island? what about trickle down economics that has developed a clog?

    August 27, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  2. AgonyF

    "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:28-31

    Personally I don't think God picks sides, just enjoys the game/fight/war/extinction/whatever...

    August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  3. Apul M'Deek-Aoud

    Please pet Palin speak!

    August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  4. Cody

    Religion has no place in politics. I think if you mention god you should not be allowed to run. You can't have a free society if you have a religious bias.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  5. steve jones

    So what, you still suck no matter how much you speak of God. You people are full of hate.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  6. Todd

    There is no place for religion in government. There needs to be a separation between church and state. This is what our country was founded upon. Our decisions should be based on facts and sound judgment not mysticism.

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


      August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  7. baboo

    exactly why there is seperation of church and state so religion does not matter when electing an official, but apparently residents of the largest idiotic nation don't understand this, instead my neighborhood is filled with idiots too busy figuring out if obama is a muslim or if romney can even be considered a christian. My idiotic neighbors dont seem to realize this country was established so we put religion on the back burner when deciding who our leader is going to be and how he will help us become a more prosperous nation. Romney i may disagree with but he will probably lose because he is a mormon and obama is a acceptable christian.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • William Soul

      250,000,000 people in the USA and the best two men we can come up with give us a choice of re-electing a heathen or electing a member of a godless sect.

      Damned if you don't and damned if you do.

      Hold your nose and vote--

      August 27, 2012 at 11:24 am |

    I don't remind religion at all, and most mormons I know are nice people. But the thing is, they are the only ones trying to push their religion on other people, which is awful. They have a lot of children and some I know are on foodstamps... awful. I don't like either canidate, except if ron paul is on the ballot, but if it comes down to it I will pick Obama. I had no insurance and my kidney was bad so now I have a $150,000 bill for one week in the hospital and if I lived in Canada it wouldn't be like that. I think universal healthcare is a good thing. I used to live in Alaska and I am part native so when I had my surgeries, everything was free and the care was great.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  9. Bible just a theory

    The MORMONS claim to have the POWER TO HEAL DISEASE by the "laying on of hands" and praying in the name of Jesus, so isn't it a little awkward that they are not able to cure Ann Romney's MS? Of course, religion always has some clever excuse, such as "God is testing her", or some such nonsense as a "reason" for disease. Try to tell THAT to all the other multiple sclerosis sufferers! I put my trust in the scientists working to cure this terrible disease, not the preachers.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  10. bill

    The GOP are as religiously upright as Al Qaeda. The GOP have nothing in common with Christianity and they are not subject matter experts on the economy either (i.e. remember how that trickle down economics stuff worked out during the last GOP president?). These clowns are nothing but false prophets and they only get donations and votes by scaring people.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  11. Ima Voter

    Religion is the tool of the GOP to get the weak to follow.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • ThinkAgain

      Yep, reminds me of "religion is the opiate of the masses." Now who said that? Oh, yeah, KARL MARX!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  12. southernwonder

    looks like the baptists and methodists and lutherans are not getting equal time at the gop convention.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  13. NYKnows

    Catholics are horrified at Dolan's elevation to Cardinal when he helped hide pedophile priests, so inviting him shows how out of touch the GOP truly is. And there are 2 things the GOP uses to hide its antiAmerican platform – religion and balloons. Reagan was great at hiding lies behind massive balloon drops Where is the story on the balloons, CNN?

    August 27, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • William Chrisitian

      Obama or Romney.

      A Heathen or Sect Member

      Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

      Hold your nose and vote--

      August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  14. getmeoutofhere

    This article literally is not based on any fact it is just the media exaggerating previous or nonexistant things to make republicans sound bad. Religion is playing a role because they want to do a prayer at the end and the beginning.I highly doubt #1, #4, #7 will even be talked about at the convention.

    Calling someone "America's Pope" is a good word choice to put fear in people's minds when he was probably given that name based on solely popularity with in his religion. Not to mention he is Hispanic, so do you liberals only like minorities when they are below you and need your help?
    everyone's fear of Mormons is making them sound a little intolerant....

    August 27, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Benjamin

      Religion isn't the problem. It's use as a bludgeon of the Republican party is. Religion shouldn't be partisan.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  15. Dave T

    Can an idea from a TEA party person build upon a liberals business concept? I believe the answer to our deficit problem is to regrow our economy. I believe, it will take a village of people with different talents to create many new US companies. Thus lower our unemployment rate.

    There are those good at producing new ideas (perhaps a liberal), good at sales (perhaps a TEA party Patriot), good at writing, good at HR (perhaps a Democrat), good with the details and those good at raising money (perhaps a Republican). By working together, we may create many new US companies.

    I believe we must be united as Americans; given our already unstable world. We are talking about nukes in the Middle East and the problems in Afghanistan! The more negative political ads and speeches, lowers the US stand across this globe. Thus creates an even more unstable world. People worldwide will know about these ads and speeches through today's Internet.

    They say you cannot win a war with the military alone. You must win the hearts and minds of people. So please, let us keep our ads to that of a positive vision and nothing else. It may be the best policy given our unstable world, especially in the Middle East.

    The start could begin by all Americans working together, with their God given talents which I believe we all possess. Then we may not only create new US companies. We just may win more hearts and minds of people across this globe, as well.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  16. Ted Davenport

    Ayn Rand will be at the convention "Spiritually" She was an Atheist...

    August 27, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  17. lover of freedom

    Perhaps the GOP should be renamed the GOD.

    Religion has no place in politics. Religion shouldn't be used in the decision making of what is best for the country.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • NYKnows

      Well put, but when the GOP plan is to destroy more lives through gutting Medicare, education and any hope for the future, they have to hide behind something – so "religion" it is!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  18. MIALAX

    The Lord sent Isaac as a demonstration that He does not like the GOP. Think about it. If you are a true believer why would Isaac happen at the same time as the NRC?

    August 27, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  19. Joey

    So this drives me nuts. This was a quote from JFK on the matter of Separation of Church and State

    "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 parishoners 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. [...] I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come—and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible—when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same."

    August 27, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Danny

      Here Here............exactly !

      August 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • MIALAX

      Why does that quote drive you nuts? I don't understand you. That quote is absolutely brilliant!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Joey

      This article drives me nuts. The fact that Faith is being strung together with a party. I think JFK was brilliant with what he said.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Benjamin


      If someone in politics said that today, on either side, they'd be (for lack of a better term) politically crucified. In fact, considering that JFK was shot, you could argue that he was too. But that kind of ideal is exactly the kind we need in a leader and throughout politics.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Lydia

      JFK was a great President. I don't think Romney even holds any of his own beliefs, and if he does, he is too afraid to say them. He is merely a puppet at this point. They just want him elected at this point. They are just running the anything but Obama ticket, and they don't even hide it.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Bill

      I couldn't agree more. The GOP is going to be the first religious party in US history and they are going destroy democracy and this country.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  20. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Mitt Romney introduced his VP running mate Paul Ryan before the backdrop of an old Navy ship. Now the GOT National Convention set to kick off this week, has been delayed due to rising waters on the high seas!!! See the correlation here? Isn't that how jobs are shipped overseas? God is giving the the voters some divine guidance and trying to tell them something.

    Obama/Biden 2012!

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

      Good point – what is it with all the GOPers who wiggled out of serving in the military, but have to use Navy ships as their "backdrop" for photo opportunities – do Bush and Romney really think we are THAT stupid???

      August 27, 2012 at 11:20 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.