Republican Mitt Romney asked Americans on Thursday not to reject his bid to be the next president of the United States because of his Mormon faith.
The former governor of Massachusetts said he wants to be judged as an American, not a Mormon, much like former U.S. President John F. Kennedy asked to be judged as an American, not a Catholic.
"Like him, I am an American running for president,"Romneysaid in a speech delivered to300 supporters who gathered at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas.
"I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith."
Romney, speaking in front of a backdrop of 10 American flags,told the crowd thathe felt it was necessary to explain his thoughts on faith and politics. Some Republicans have said the idea of supporting a Mormon candidate in the 2008 Republican presidential nomination makes them uncomfortable.
But Romney insisted that his faith would not interfere with his ability to serve as president, nor would it make him favour Mormons over others.
"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest," he said. "A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."
Romney, speaking less than a month before the first primary was set to get underway in Iowa, said when he served four years as governor, from 2003to 2007, he never confused the obligations of his office with the teachings of his church. He said it will be the same if he is elected president.
"I will put no doctrine of the church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law," he said.
Will not abandon his faith
Romney said he sees the value of all faiths, and admires theancient tradition of the Jews, the frequent prayers of the Muslims, the profound ceremony of the Catholics and the tender spirit of the Pentecostal.
He said all faiths share "a common creed of moral convictions", and those morals can guide the U.S. through the challenges it now faces, whetherthe faltering U.S. economy, the breakdown of the American family or defending the U.S. againstthe"radical and violent" elements of Islam that seek to destroy America.
Still,Romney said while he will not put his religion above his duties, he will never abandon his faith and the faith of his fathers.
"I will be true to them and my beliefs," he said. "Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy and if they are right, so be it."
He said that while religion and state are separated for good reason, religion should not be completely banished from public life. He accused some Americansof taking the division of state and religion to an extreme.
"It's as if they're intent on establishing a new religion in America, the religion of secularism. They are wrong," he said.
"We are a nation under God, and in God we do indeed trust," he added.
"We should acknowledge the creator as did the founders in ceremony and word. He should remain in our currency, in our pledge, in the teachings of history and in the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places."