Thursday, September 9, 2010

Romney's critics & how religion goes public

In a 2009 article for the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs, communication scholar Martin Medhurst wrote an analysis of Romney's speech from the perspective of his (Romney's) critics. The critics, according to Medhurst, responded in ways that "underscore the five basic issues" that we face when evaluating religion in public life:

(1) Is talk about religion either necessary or desirable in American politics? (2) If such talk is necessary or desirable, what aspects of religion are relevant to the political process and, especially, to the office of President of the United States? (3) Are there some aspects of religion or some uses of religion that are simply inappropriate, and if so, why? (4) How do we reconcile the constitutional issues of free speech and free exercise of religion with the equally constitutional issues of no religious test and no establishment of religion? (5) Can religious and democratic attitudes toward such intangibles as truth, knowledge, virtue, and belief ever be reconciled, and if so, how? (pp. 198-9)

These questions are very useful for discussing religion in the public sphere, and I hope we return to them later in the semester. Keep them on your radar!

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