Meet the Press | May 22, 2013
Governor Romney , welcome to MEET THE PRESS .
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Thanks, Tim . Good to be with you.
MR. RUSSERT: You gave a speech about the Mormon faith , religion and politics recently, and I want to ask you about a sentence in that speech that caused some discussion around the country. Let's watch.
GOV. ROMNEY: Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom .
MR. RUSSERT: " Freedom requires religion ." Can you have freedom without organized religion ?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, I was paraphrasing and underlining, if you will, a quote that I'd just read from John Adams , who said that our constitutional form of government in this nation would require morality and freedom to be able to survive. And, of course , George Washington said virtually the same thing, that we were a nation that required a level of morality and religion in order to be a great nation and survive. And I think there's truth to that, that the -- that the great experiment of democracy, the experiment of America 's freedom has, as its basis, a sense of morality and a recognition that religious foundations are part of that, that morality.
And so I believe that long-term for America to remain a great nation and to lead the world, we must have a recognition of our religious base. Now, that's, of course , not a particular denomination. But the, the founders of the nation , coming from different faiths and different persuasions, nonetheless all believed that the, the creator was an instrumental part of the founding of this nation . And I believe that that part of history should be taught, I believe that we should recognize the divine with everything from celebrations in the town square , with menorahs and nativity scenes, as well as in our history books, talking about the fact that the creators did believe in a fundamental sense of, of the divine. And, and recognizing that that gives us a moral code , a suggestion of what is right and wrong, that is -- that is, in many respects, unique in the world.
We, we believe, as a nation , from the founding of this nation , that God gave the individual certain inalienable rights . That's not a constitutional guarantee, that's not a policy guarantee, it's a guarantee from our creator. And, of course , the corollary is that, that if we're all children of the same God, that we have a duty to one another, to care for one another, Americans first and the people of the world second. And, and finally, that freedom is something which is -- which is of a,
an eternal nature. And so all of these things, I think, are part of what makes America unique and part of what gives us confidence that freedom can ring forever in, in this -- in this land.
MR. RUSSERT: But when you say freedom requires religion , can you be a moral person and be an atheist?
GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, oh, of course . Oh, of course .
MR. RUSSERT: And participate in freedom ?
GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, of course . Yes, this...
MR. RUSSERT: So freedom doesn't require religion ?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, this -- the, the context was talking about the, the founding of the nation and the, the sense in this case of John Adams describing the fact that our constitutional form of government and this American experiment required morality, which in turn required religion . And, and yet, of course , on an individual basis, you have many individuals of great morality and- -that, that don't have any particular faith .
MR. RUSSERT: So if you determined that the most qualified person for the Supreme Court or for attorney general or secretary of education happened to be an atheist or an agnostic, that wouldn't prevent you from appointing them?
GOV. ROMNEY: Of course not. You, you, you look at individuals based upon their skills and their ability, their values , their intelligence. And there are many who are agnostic or atheist or who have very different beliefs about the nature of the divine than I do, and, and you evaluate them based on their skills. But I, I can tell you that I, I myself am a person of faith and, and respect the, the sense of the common bond of humanity that comes from that, that fundamental belief.
MR. RUSSERT: But there'd be no litmus test ?
GOV. ROMNEY: No, no. There's no litmus test of, of that nature.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask you about an interview you had with Sam Stone -- Sunstone magazine . Here's it on the cover. It's a Mormon -based magazine. This is from November of '05, and it says, quote, " Romney sought advice from the man he admires most in this world, Mormon President Gordon Bitner Hinckley . The conversation eventually turned to whether a run for the presidency would be good for him and the church. The specifics of the conversation are, of course , known only to people who were there."
Should voters be concerned that you were seeking input from the leader of the Mormon church as to whether or not you should run for president?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, the decision about running for president was one that I made entirely by myself, and I got a lot of advice from a lot of people, some solicited, some not solicited, as you might imagine. And the decision was made by my sons and daughters-in-law and my wife and
myself in December of last year. And I got, I got the kind of support that, that I guess a lot of folks would hope that they'd get from their family, each of them recognizing that there was a downside for them personally and potentially for me, but that these are such critical times in our nation 's history with the threat of radical jihad, the, the new competitive threat that we face from China and, at the same time, our domestic problems -- overspending, overuse of oil, failure in our schools and so forth -- that it was time for someone that had experience outside government to finally take the reins in Washington to get us on the right track. But I'm, I'm happy to get as much advice as I can from as many people as I can.
But I, I also pointed out in my address, as you know, in, in College Station that, that I would accept no guidance or, or input of an inappropriate nature from anyone in any religion . The, the leaders of a faith have their responsibility and authority in the sphere of their faith , but in the sphere of public, of the public domain , they have, they have no authority.
MR. RUSSERT: So if President Hinckley told you it would not be in the best interest , in his judgment, for you to run for president, you would still run if you'd made that decision?
GOV. ROMNEY: I would have listened to a lot of people on a lot of topics, but the decision was mine, and the nature of my faith is not to have church officials tell you what to do. I believe very firmly in the principle of, of free agency , people making their own decisions and doing what they think is right.
MR. RUSSERT: Did he encourage you?
GOV. ROMNEY: He didn't offer any advice on, on, on a run for office whatsoever.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about one of your supporters, a Dr. Bob Jones III .
GOV. ROMNEY: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...an evangelical leader, and this is what he said about your faith . He said it was a "cult," an "erroneous religion ." How can you accept the support of someone who would trash your faith in that way?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, you know, religions are in a competitive battle. They're competing for souls and adherence. And the good news is that Bob Jones may not agree with my faith -- and obviously he does not -- but he does believe that I'm the right person to be president of the United States , and that's because he believes that a person of faith should lead the nation , an individual who's pro-life, who's adamantly in favor of traditional marriage , an individual who has the skills and background to get America back on track internationally and domestically. So we have, we have very common ground when it talks -- when, when we talk about what's needed for the country. I mean, I think he and I would agree that our church needs pastors, but, but the, the White House needs a president. And he backs me as a president, not as a pastor. And I'm not running for pastor in chief, I'm running for president of the United States . And I believe, and he believes that my values , my experience through the private sector at the Olympics and then in government, as well as my vision for America is right for America . So I'm delighted to have his support and some say when all this is over, we'll probably talk about religion , too.
MR. RUSSERT: He went on. He said this:"I'd be very concerned if he tried to make it appear in any" way -- in any "of this statements that Mormonism is a Christian denomination of some sort. It isn't. There's a theological gulf that can't be bridged." He's saying cult. He's saying erroneous religion . He's saying you're not a Christian. How can you accept the support of someone who's so dismissive of a faith that you treasure?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, people have differing views about faith , as you understand, and, of course , as I indicated there are, there are competing faiths in this nation . But the, the great thing, of course , is that our values are the same. We have Christians and Jews for instance. They don't have the same faith , but we certainly have the same Judeo-Christian foundation, and it's those common values that allow us to select people regardless of their faith for, for positions of secular leadership.
MR. RUSSERT: But you wouldn't call Judaism a cult or erroneous religion , would you?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well it's -- I certainly wouldn't. But each of us has their own approach to how we're going to describe other people's faiths. At the same time, I, I think you recognize that to, to someone like Dr. Jones , the, the term Christian means something different than it does to other people. To some folks the term Christian refers to a certain group of evangelical faiths that adhere to the Nicene Creed and so forth. And if that's the definition of, of Christian that they have, why, that's their right to define it that way. There are others who say, "No, if you believe as I do, that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that that makes one Christian." And so people have different definitions, but in, in the realm of religion , which is separate in this sense, in the, in the realm of doctrines and differences and histories between churches, that's very separate that the -- than the affairs of state.
But fortunately, in the affairs of state, values , values that come from our religious foundation, values that come from our common belief that we are descendants or children of God, that we are brothers and sisters, that we have responsibility for one another, that liberty is a gift of the divine, those values are common throughout this great land. And, of course , the great experiment of America initially was to bring people here for religious liberty . They got here and began to be just as intolerant here as they'd been at home. But the brilliance of what happened at Philadelphia was that the founders recognized that we could be a land which welcomed the diversity of faiths and we could therefore promote people in business, in, in secular life, not based upon what they believed, or even based upon the color of their skin -- ultimately it took us a while to figure that one out -- or their gender or their sexual orientation , we would promote people in our society based on their ability and that has made all the difference in the world. We lead the world because of that, that power and greatness associated with that recognition.