Mitt’s religious test

I suppose most people who were appalled by Mitt Romney’s big religion speech yesterday will focus on the first clause of this sentence:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

It is appalling, and it’s not just some cherry-picked line; the sentiment that religion is an essential part of American government runs through the speech. But the second clause is just as appalling, albeit for a different—and grander—reason. “Freedom requires religion” is just a twisted view of the Constitution. “Religion required freedom” displays an ignorance of the whole of human history.

This is not a question of belief or philosophy; it’s a matter of empirical fact. Religion has been with us for as long as we’ve been recording our comings and goings. Freedom has occupied just a tiny speck of that span. Clearly, religion has done just fine without freedom. To say otherwise—in a carefully-prepared speech, mind you, not in an extemporaneous remark—betrays either a breathtaking degree of stupidity or a very low opinion of the intelligence of the audience. Either way, in a speech intended to decry religious tests, Romney somehow managed to give himself one. And fail it.