Joe Biden gave a speech at the University of Pittsburgh and had a question and answer session afterwards. One of the questions that Vice President Biden recieved was a question about how religion and politics have shaped his life and came to a surprising defense of Mitt Romney's faith:
The last question was about how Biden's own faith plays a role in his public life and he noted he's Catholic and his family was proud when John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960 despite questions about his Catholic faith.
Biden said on Friday afternoon "it's embarrassing and we should be ashamed" that these types of questions are still coming up about Romney in 2012.
Earlier in the day, the Obama campaign put out a memo attacking Romney's plan to balance the federal budget by charging it "proposes spending cut that would devastate key middle class programs to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy."
Despite their policy differences, Biden has been a consistent defender of Romney's faith being left out of the campaign prism. In a 2007 interview with CNN during his own presidential campaign, Biden was asked about Romney giving a speech about his religion in order to tamp down controversy.
"I thought it was a shame he had to make that speech," Biden said of Romney, before referring again to Kennedy's own efforts to deal with the issue in 1960.
"I thought that speech [Kennedy] gave to the Baptist ministers in Texas would end the need for any presidential candidate in the future ever [to] have to speak about or defend their religion. And I think it's a shame."
It is not surprising that Catholics frown on people who refuse to vote for a cadidate becaues of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Early in American history, there were laws that were passed that excluded Catholics from political office because many people believed that Catholics were not Christians. While laws have not been passed to exclude Mormons from office, the rationale behind these anti-Catholic laws are still being used today because many people are saying that Christians shouldn't vote for a Mormon because Mormons aren't Christians.
Joe Biden isn't the first Catholic to come to the defense of Mitt Romney's religion. During the 2008 Presidential election, Bill Donohue, President of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, had this to say about politicians who use their own religion to attract voters to their campaign or use another candidate's religion as a reason not to vote for that candidate:
"You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is."Senator Rick Santorum, who is also a Catholic has stated that Mitt Romney's religion shouldn't be an issue in the 2012 election.
Catholics aren't the only people who have defended Mitt Romney's faith. Religious leaders from different faiths have objected to people who think Mitt Romney shouldn't be President because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Many politicians, from many different religious backgrounds, have also raised their voices against people who think it is acceptable to vote or not vote for a candidate because of their religion. Many 2012 candidates have blasted Pastor Robert Jeffress for spewing religious bigotry across America by telling people they shouldn't vote for a candidate because Mitt belongs to theological cult and is not a Christian. Jim DeMint, a Protestant, has stated that he doesn't think Mitt's religion will be an issue in this election.
Jews have also come to Mitt Romney's defense. Senator Joe Lieberman has spoken out against religious bigotry in an address he gave at Brigham Young University. Michael Medved went on the offensive against Pastor Robert Jeffress for his comments about Mitt's faith.
It is surprising yet refreshing to see someone like Joe Biden who disagrees with Mitt Romney on political and theological issues come to defend Mitt Romney's faith. I suspect that Vice President Biden, like so many other people who have come to defend Romney's religion, understand that it is a candidate's values and not his religion that voters should be concerned about. A candidate's positions on a wide range of issues have a bigger impact on the direction and success of American than their religion does.