Romney: free society needs religious liberty to prosper

By Michelle Bauman

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Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that morality and religion play a critical role in a free and democratic society such as America.

In democracies and free nations, Romney said, “people have to have a sense of right and wrong, a purpose greater than self, in order for the society to work.”

In an interview with Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN's news program “The World Over,” Romney explained that this moral understanding of right and wrong is “an essential part of free nations working effectively and having a productive and prosperous future.”

The role of religion and religious liberty has become a central topic in the current election season, as concerns about the erosion of religious freedom have heightened.

Chief among these concerns is a mandate issued by the Obama administration to require employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

The mandate has led to criticism from individuals and organizations from a wide variety of political and religious backgrounds.

Romney, who has pledged to repeal the mandate if he is elected, told Arroyo that religious liberty is part of “the platform that I run on,” adding that “religions should not have imposed on them the dictates of a government.”

During the interview – which aired on EWTN on Aug. 23 – he also announced that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be offering the benediction on the concluding night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 30.

Romney said that as president of the U.S., he would continue to meet with the cardinal and with other religious leaders to ensure that each piece of proposed legislation is considered “in terms of its impact on religious freedom and tolerance.”

“I’m making it very clear that the interest of religious freedom is something I support wholeheartedly,” he said.

In 2008, Romney’s work to defend religious freedom was recognized by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which awarded him its annual Canterbury Medal, the organization’s highest honor.

By looking at “the history of this country,” Romney said, we can see that “freedom requires religion.”

“The freedom that was unleashed upon the world came as the result of individuals who recognized that our rights came from our Creator, not from government,” he said.

It was this understanding that led to “a bursting forth” of freedom including religious liberty and political equality, he added.

He pointed to the works of Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian who wrote extensively about his experiences with early American society. One of Tocqueville’s key observations was the importance of a moral sense of right and wrong in allowing a free democracy to function prosperously.

Romney said that he agreed with this observation and that “any effort on the part of the federal government to intrude on religious liberty” is a violation of the religious liberty guaranteed in the First Amendment. 

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee also spoke about the importance of prayer in his own life. He said that he prays daily, asking God for “guidance and inspiration” for himself and his family.

“I believe that providence has helped guide me in decisions I’ve made throughout my life,” he said.

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