Romney: Beliefs Won't Influence My Presidency; Republican May Use JFK-Style Speech to Defend Mormonism

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Byline: Eric Pfeiffer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said yesterday that he fully accepts the teachings of his Mormon religion but that as president he would not take dictates from the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The former Massachusetts governor said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he hasn't decided whether to deliver a major "Kennedy-esque" speech on his religion, but gave an answer similar to what then-Sen. John F. Kennedy told a meeting of Protestant ministers in 1960 in Houston.

"My church wouldn't endeavor to tell me what to do on an issue, and I wouldn't listen to them on an issue that related to our nation," Mr. Romney said. "I certainly don't do what leaders of my church or any other tells me to do."

Mr. Romney's words echoed those of Mr. Kennedy, who famously told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association: "I believe in an America ... where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act"

"I do not speak for my church on public matters. And the church does not speak for me," Mr. Kennedy said.

There has been much speculation that Mr. Romney will make a similar major speech on his religion, primarily because evangelical Protestants, who make up a large part of the Republican base, commonly do not consider Mormons to be Christians and might be reluctant to vote for one. Some polls have shown as many as 30 percent of voters wouldn't vote for a Mormon president, but Mr. Romney dismissed such concerns.

"Of course, there will be some who don't come on board," Mr. Romney said. "But by and large, people will make their decision not based on where you go to church but instead based upon your values."

Mr. Kennedy gave his September 1960 speech to reassure voters that he would not consult with the Vatican as commander in chief. The U.S. had never had a Catholic president then and the belief that Catholics were disloyal or didn't accept America's liberal-democratic order was much more widespread than now. …