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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. One one

    Let's be honest folks. ALL politicians proclaim how important their faith is to them. Obama is no exception.

    The sad reality is, in the USA, they all still have to bow to, and get the approval from religious leaders to win an election.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • sendai

      The better ones make better choices as to which religious leaders they seek favor from.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Ting

      I agree. It's worse when we have a president that hears a voice that tells him to do things like start a war.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • One one

      "Obama said he had begun to sense God beckoning him to submit to his will and dedicate himself to discovering truth. So one day he walked down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and affirmed his Christian faith. Remaining a member of the church for 20 years, Trinity, Obama said, is where he found Jesus Christ, where he and Michelle were married, and where his children were baptized."

      Source: President Barack Obama By Mary Fairchild, About.com Guide

      September 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  2. Woody

    Somebody, anybody, please convince me that the human race will progress beyond the belief in the ancient, ridiculous fairy tales about gods, demons, angels, prophets and the like. A simple, illiterate, psychotic carpenter convinces his simple, illiterate followers that he is "the son of god". Several hundred years later, a simple, illiterate shepard, convinces his simple, illiterate followers that he saw visions, and got instruti-tions from "Allah". Jesus probably belonged in a mental insti-tution, Mohammad, on the other hand, seemed to be the ultimate con artist who knew he had a good gig going, similar to modern day TV preachers. Amazing as it seems, in the 21st Century, there seems to be an exponential increase in human stupidity. As Albert Einstein once said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Professor Einstein, you truly were a genius!

    September 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • tony

      Yeah Albert!!!

      September 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Great post Woody! With the invention of the internet more young people who are raised in the religious "Bubble" will have access to other points of view. It is happening now and it is becoming much harder to convince young adults that these religions are accurate. Religions hate technology and science because it continues to expose their charade.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Humanist11

      "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own - a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms." – Albert Einstein

      "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." – Albert Einstein

      September 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Mike

    I had been leaning towards voting for Mitt because I didn't think he was one of those Christian conservatives who would tried to enforce his religious values on me, but it's clear that he's shifting towards that position now that his poll numbers are not looking good. I can no longer support him in good conscience.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Humanist11

      I feel exactly the same, but I just can't afford to pay for another 4 years of Obama either. I'm going to either vote for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party or do a write in for Thomas Jefferson. I'm serious about the write in.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  4. Craig

    Romney's mentioning of God is laughable. It panders to his uneducated base (Rick Santorum's words, not mine) because they will believe whatever he says, without questioning it. Everyone with a working brain knows that he is Mormon and they're just...different. I want someone to ask about his 'planet'.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Good point that gets to the heart of the problem when you mix politics and religion. Don't forget to ask about the secret handshake and password to get into heaven. Is this the kind of thinking we want from the most powerful person in the world? The problem is that Obama is doing so much damage to our economy that we might have to put up with the religious crap in order to get out of this recession. Vote write in for Thomas Jefferson!

      September 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  5. tony

    Can he win the election if the entire Mormon Nation votes for him?

    September 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  6. oaktree1417

    I'm glad he's mentioning God, which is almost a forbidden word in America now. Good Romney!!!
    I think if Romney wasn't so controlled by those backroom boys, he would show himself to be a better person.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • tony

      Question. (1) Who parted the red sea? (2) Then who caused or ignored the last two tsunamis which slaughtered 1at least 200,000's of innocents.

      Either both or neither were YOUR god.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • sendai

      A better man might realize he's not really suited to be President. Also, that in the best interest of the nation Obama should not be opposed as he brings the country back together in the aftermath of the last Republican administration.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  7. Oh My My

    Mitt: keep God in your heart, your bedroom, and your home. Mitt, would you want to put Ann on the public square?
    History told us that God on the public square does not bring any good, but tyranny.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  8. tony

    Buying magic underware is a charitable deduction. Romney took about $1,500,000 worth just last year alone. And his church doesn't pay any tax on that income.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Humanist11

      If Mitt does not donate a certain percentage of his income (10%??) to the Mormon church then he will not be allowed into the higher levels of heaven or the tabernacle for that matter. Do we want a president that believes in that kind of logic?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  9. sendai

    Whenever a Mormon (Mormons are not Christians) is called out over some glaring inconsistency in Mormonism or how it's practiced his invariable fallback is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” I like the Jesuit James Martin for using that verse to upbraid Romney over his criticism of Obama's Christian faith.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  10. glorydays

    More manipulation of moronic masses.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  11. jeremydanielphotography

    Who cares how many times you say GOD, how about those tax returns, or a stable plan on how you're so much better than the current president, other than B.S. crap laid political plans.

    The joy of being a free country is people have the right to believe in what, or who they want, or nothing at all, the president is suppose to even keel on this, not going around throwing more GOD slogans in your campaign, give me a break.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Jesus What?

    Anybody noticed how Romney has disappered from the front page (online) of CNN after his latest Gaffe? The GOP is runnin' now with their forked tailes between their legs...

    September 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Jesus What?

      sorry, I meant tails...still, republicans do seem to be runnin' scared with Romney at their helm and that's fun for us real people of America.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  13. ted

    Say "God" make a Republican happy 🙂

    September 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Jesus What?

      ohhhhh, say it again!

      September 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  14. One one

    It must suck running for president. Pretending to believe in god and kissing the a$$ of religious leaders to get votes.

    Obama does it also. When they held the big rally for Gabby Gifford, it was like a tent revival. Even the attorney general, of all people, was quoting Christian scripture. Obama was right there with the rest of them quoting scripture like the Christian he claims he is. Do I believe him? Hell no, he is a Chicago politician.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • merilyalong

      Sounds like you're really on Romney's side "one one." You're just a bigot.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Reality Checker

      The rally was FOR GABBY GIFFORD.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • One one

      @meri, no i am not a bigot, but your response is the problem. If someone does not like Obama's approach and doubts his motives they are a bigot ? One of the concerns I have with him is his tact of fostering division. In his mind I am part of the problem because I am white , male and pay more than my fair share of taxes. But he wants more. He has clearly divided the country along lines of income, race, gender, and religion. That is not productive.

      Your response demonstrates my concern.

      As a matter of principle, I don't believe a sustainable approach for moving the ball forward is to punish the makers and reward the takers.

      Do YOU believe Obama is a reborn Christian like he claims to be ?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Reality Checker

      @One one.

      "Punish the makers"? How? Do you think someone should be given preferential treatment because they ALREADY have money.

      "Reward the taker"? I've heard this line of thinking before but have yet to see ANYONE demonstrate what this means. Do you think it's reward BIG Oil to give them $4Billion in tax relief when they are showing record profits. Is it OK to reward Verizon who pays NO taxes.

      WHO are the makers and takers?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Pure Phat

    I'd love to see a religious war in the U.S. and around the world. Hopefully everystupidone will die.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • merilyalong

      Hopefully that would include you pure fat?

      September 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  16. secular politics, not a religious state

    Wow, Mitt Romney has lost it. Dear Mitt: please Google "SEC-U-LAR". Get religions (yes, plural) out of U.S. government. Focus on real issues that affect all citizens such as...the economy, foreign policy, healthcare...and keep religions where they belong: in the privacy of each person's own life.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  17. Here's a thought

    "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

    Maybe focus on real issues. Voters can consult their conscience and their faith in determining what God might require.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  18. Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D.

    I truly wish people would get their religion out of our politics! This country was established to escape the smothering influence of religion over the public. Yet because of the fundamentalists and tea party extremists that is exactly what our country is becoming today.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • NFL1

      DITTO DITTO DITTO!!

      September 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • tkayvegas

      God is synonymous with morals. When you say God does not belong in politics you may just as well say morals do not belong in politics. An atheist may not believe in a god but he can still find comfort in knowing that a politician values a moral code. If you think having good morals is important in a candidate than that is religious to a certain extent. If you don't think morals are important then you do not support America as founded and would probably more comfortable in a country like China or Cuba.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Our founding fathers would roll over in their graves!

      September 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Repost:
      @Tkayvegas. Open your eyes. There are atheists everywhere with good morals. We are living in the present with our families, friends and fellow citizens. I have many christian friends that have no clue that I'm atheist because I live a personal life that reflects logic, rational thinking, devotion to my wife and kids, charity to the less fortunate and compassion to my fellow man. Those are natural traits, not religious traits. They have been around much longer than your religion.

      September 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  19. carolae

    I think Romney needs to keep quiet on using God's name. The Mormans (LDS) do not believe in the Trinity as we understand it. They believe that God and Jesus were separate physical people who dwelled on the earth. God was Jesus' father, and both men died. This man is NOT a Christian and to invoke his beliefs is not good. As the old saying goes, "religion and politics make strange bedfellows"....don't mix them together. If Romney loses the presidential bid, he only has himself to blame for it.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • AlysrianXian

      What are you talking about Carolae? I am LDS and we DO believe in the holy trinity. We are ALSO VERY Christian. Please learn your facts before you start insulting a faith you do NOT understand! As per his references towards God, I'm not sure why he is suddenly mentioning this non-stop now. I don't care what religion any of the candidates are (or even if they are atheist), I care about their political stances. So talk about those, not about God and blah blah blah.

      September 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  20. ManTex

    The campaign is not going too well so he thought he would preach to the choir and pander to the extreme right?

    September 15, 2012 at 7:01 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.