Faith and Politics: Mitt Romney’s vote to convict

Dean CrowleyHow do we understand Mitt Romney’s speech on the floor of the Senate and his decision to vote to convict Trump? How did he decide to vote against the GOP party line? How should people engage faith-fully with politics? Undergraduates were invited to join Dean Jenny Wood Crowley in a conversation on how Romney’s Mormon faith influenced his decision, and what we can learn.

In light of Senator Mitt Romney’s decision to vote in favor of convicting President Donald Trump for abuse of power, Dean Jenny Wood Crowley sat down with undergraduate students for a conversation about faith and politics, sponsored by Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Together, they explored the ways in which Romney’s Mormon faith influenced his resolve to vote against party lines to impeach the President, as well to address broader questions with regard to the place of religious expression in our current political system.

Dean Crowley sought to contextualize Romney’s speech by placing it into its proper historical and theological context. She emphasized the importance of time and place in LDS theology, and how, historically, LDS members have believed that it was only in the United States with its Constitution—especially its guarantee of freedom of religion—that their church could take hold to become the thriving religion that it is today. Since its founding, those within the church have understood the Constitution to be divinely inspired, and it is through this lens that we can begin to understand Romney’s use of religious reasoning and his appeal to providence. As Dean Crowley pointed out, constitutional issues for Romney are in fact religious issues, and that Romney believed it his duty to uphold the sacredness of the Constitution through his support of impeachment.

This laid the groundwork for a lively discussion about public displays of faith in politics. One student opined how faith unquestionably informs the political commitments of many politicians, and in the case of Romney, it is his faith that makes him who he is. Another student wondered whether Romney was trying to package his remarks in a way that was not only appealing for LDS members, but for Christians more broadly, whereas another questioned if he was making a strategic political move. The conversation turned towards presidential elections, and how a candidate’s faith is not as important for voters as it once was, though it is apparent that candidates still do evoke their faith. Dean Crowley thoughtfully worked through these questions and others with students, and acknowledged that the relationship between faith and politics is truly complicated, but expressed hope that students will continue to think about Mitt Romney’s actions, and what this means for the current political system.

Jeremy Buotte provides support for the Human Rights, Global Migration, Religions and Public Life, and Technically Right programs at the Kenan Institute, as well as manages the Ethics Book Clubs for Staff.

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