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On campaign trail, Romney ratchets ups God rhetoric
Early in his campaign, Mitt Romney spoke at Liberty University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the world.
September 14th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

On campaign trail, Romney ratchets ups God rhetoric

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – At campaign events these days, Mitt Romney often says that if he is elected president, he will emphasize the role of God in American society and will not “take God out of the public square.”

That kind of rhetoric is a departure from earlier less God-focused versions of the Republican candidate’s stump speech and his early apprehension with discussing his Mormon faith.

According to Mark DeMoss, Romney’s adviser to the evangelical community, such lines are designed to create a contrast with a Democratic Party that had to fight to get God into its platform at its recent convention.

“I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party,” Romney has been saying in his stump speech since the Democratic platform fight this month.

The former Massachusetts governor used the line at a campaign stop in Mansfield, Ohio, on Monday. In nearly the same breath, he said that “we are nation under God.”

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DeMoss says the new rhetoric is not a departure from anything but is “as much as a response to something that really shocked a lot of people.”

“I think the governor is probably doing two things,” said DeMoss, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign: “reinforcing his own commitment to God and, secondly, showing some contrast.”

Some religious leaders and scholars see Romney's new God talk in a somewhat different light.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and media commentator, said Romney’s line that “I will not take God out of my heart” is a coded way to question to veracity of the President Barack Obama’s Christian faith.

“Critiquing the president for taking God out of the public square when he regularly refers to God and implicitly critiquing him for taking God out of his heart, any way you look at it, is offensive,” Martin said.

In his critique of Romney’s religious rhetoric, Martin cited Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

DeMoss, a Christian PR executive, said questions about the president’s faith should not be read into the speech.

“I take that comment as a reinforced pledge and commitment that God is not going to be stripped from anything if he has anything to say about it, whether it is his heart or the public square or the party platform,” DeMoss said. “I think it would be unreasonable or unfair to suggest that that was a comment on the president.”

Last week, at an event in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Romney pledged to keep God on U.S. currency.

“Our pledge says ‘under God,’”  Romney told thousands of energetic supporters at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. “I will not take God out of the name of our platform. I will not take God off our coins. And I will not take God out of my heart.”

On Tuesday, the anniversary of terrorist attacks of September 11, Romney tweeted, "On this most somber day, America is united under God in its quest and freedom at home and across the world."

The increased God rhetoric adds to a campaign that has frequently discussed religious issues, even as Romney says the economy is the most important issue.

From debates over religious liberty – sparked by the Obama administration's "contraception mandate" for health care plans – to abortion rights, the Romney campaign has taken stands on a number of religious issues, attempting to draw a distinction with Obama.

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Jacques Berlinerblau, a Georgetown University professor with an expertise in religion and politics, says he sees the change as a response to a president who is doing better in recent polls.

“When (Republicans) get nervous about a loss, they go into base-whip-up stage,” Berlinerblau said. “They try to energize the base even more.”

He argues that such rhetoric will not appeal to “moderate religious voters” and that it is pushing Romney off his economic message.

“They are totally getting off-script,” Berlinerblau said. “We hear that this election is all about the economy, but now we are talking about religion and faith issues.”

DeMoss says it's possible to emphasize both religious and economic issues.

“I am comfortable with the balance that he has struck about talking about his faith and other people's faith, and I was comfortable with the balance at the Republican convention,” DeMoss said. “It is part of the equation, but it is certainly not the dominant part.”

- CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • God • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (3,354 Responses)
  1. Earthling

    Tell us about the Mormon planet Kolob and how you believe you'll become a god just like God Mitt!!
    Please..! tell us how you believe you'll have your own galaxy after you die and spend your time afterwards populating it with your space babies!! Yes, Please, Please, Please, Tell us All About Your Beliefs In "God"!!! Lol! Lol! Lol!

    September 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  2. Alex

    So how is Romney than the fanatics in the middle east who kill ambassadors and innocent people over a preceived insult to Mohammed and Islam they are keeping Allah(god) in their hearts.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  3. LD

    oh, he's a family man. mormons believe family is forever, even in whichever of the three heavens you end up in. however mormons also believe that if your family member leaves the mormon "church" you can no longer have dealings with that family member. ask mitt's cousin about that.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  4. Lefty Capuccino

    More deception and bs. Say whatever you have o to get elected. Politics is nothing more than a street game of three cad monte.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  5. mfx3

    You're moving in the wrong direction, Mitt. You're losing in the polls because independents and moderates aren't liking what they're hearing, not because the radical right isn't happy. The gulf is widening, and will continue to widen before November.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  6. SurRy

    Today the Official government news agency in China called out Romney's tough talk regarding China's alleged manipulation of the market by calling "it [ ] rather ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician's wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics." Has anyone seen a more universally loathed individual?

    September 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • tony

      They probably know more about his taxes than we Americans do too.

      September 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  7. LD

    hey John? and romney is...?

    September 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  8. LD

    saggyroy, you will perish in flames. you will have no place on planet romney

    September 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Ha! The joke is on you ! I have already built my own spaceship !

      September 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Josh

      Sail on Saggyroy!

      September 15, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  9. imvotingforobama

    Separation of Church and State anyone?

    September 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  10. John

    He is simply speaking the truth which most Americans already,Obama is a spiritual deadbeat.He has made some photo-opportunities at church a few times in the last year or two,but he's spiritually and morally bankrupt and unfit to be Americas leader.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Jo

      Obama oozes spirituality!! He is so like the person I think Jesus was!!

      September 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • John F. Hudak

      Pretty much the same thing said about Lincoln.

      September 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So what, John? I could care less what church (if any) a politician attends. That's private. The job of the President of the United States is to protect the interests of this nation's citizens. If the best Romney can do is cut taxes for the wealthy and pray to a god for which there is no evidence, then he is obviously unfit for the job.

      September 14, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • BSue

      Actually John, I don't want anyone holding office who actually believes in god or is a member of any church. No one who is a member of any religion should be allowed to run as they are to some extent controlled by that religion. Also, I find it hard to intellectually respect people who blindly believe anything that cannot be proven.

      September 15, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  11. Brian Inman

    I saw the photo at the top of the page and my head spun around. Mitt Romney speaking at Liberty University? I grew up Southern Baptist conservative and never said the word Mormon without saying the word "cult" after it. Today my problems with Mormonism are more historical than religious but I am aghast at the hypocrisy of the Christian right who are throwing their support behind a man whom they don't even believe is going to heaven. This meandering and misguided "anyone but Obama" strategy is getting weirder every day.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • End Religion

      It is a bizarre game being played. There is some veil of ignorance that comes down over critical thinking whenever religion comes into the mix. It's surreal. There will also still be many, many people who can not bring themselves to vote for a black person whatever he stands for, even though Mitt's religious beliefs do not align with theirs.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Brian,

      "Politics makes strange bedfellows."

      Never truer than in this topic.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  12. LD

    call him god mitt from the planet romney. worship him, obey him. listen to his prophet ryan

    September 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  13. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    Bottom line: Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him? After all, BO also believes in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies, bodily resurrections and atonement mumbo jumbo.

    One should be voting for leaders who can think rationally. Believing in angels, satans, bodily resurrections, atonement, and heavens of all kinds is irrational.

    Apparently, BO and MR have been severely brainwashed in their theologically and historically flawed Christianity and they are too weak to escape its felonious grip.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  14. saggyroy

    We should grab him by his magic underwear and give him a holy wedgie....

    September 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Keith

    Great. Taliban anyone?

    September 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  16. phuuck Repukelicans

    Republicans... Always ready to jamb their god down your throat. Phuuuuuck all republicans. Throw of the chains of their theocracy. How long before they riot and burn down your house if you are not on the approved christian list.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  17. slim

    not a racist but romney killed his chances when he made it pubic to the american public that he is a mormon, that religions "archaic" books are even less believable than others

    September 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  18. Zara

    Whatever happened to the separation between church and state?

    September 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  19. LD

    if you ain't rich like romney, you're lazy.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  20. LD

    He says he was born in america. family came here after fleeing to mexico to avoid persecution. family lived on welfare benefits totalling over $100,000. he wants to get rid of welfare, calls obama a welfare president. welfare good enough for his family to survive, makes other americans lazy and dependent. hmmm.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
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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.