Dr. Richard Land on Mitt Romney's Decision to Give Speech Explaining His Speech

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 3, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.



There's a lot of debate in the campaign about whether or not the governor should give a defining speech on your faith, on religion, to sort of maybe put this question to rest. You've waited on it, and apparently this debate is ongoing, and you're seriously thinking about a major address to deal with this:

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that there's a huge debate about this. The time may come, but, you know, John F. Kennedy really gave the quintessential speech on religion in this country. There's not a lot to add to what he said.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That was Sean's interview with former governor Mitt Romney back in October. Now, after the latest polls in Iowa show Romney in second place behind Baptist minister Mike Huckabee.

Seems that Romney's camp feels it is necessary to address his religious beliefs to the American people. And now, almost 50 years after JFK made his defining religion speech on Catholicism, do the American people still need an explanation on the candidates' faiths.

Joining us now, the author of the book, "The Divided States of America" with the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Richard Land.

Dr. Land, welcome back to our show. It's been a while. Good to have you back.


COLMES: Let me ask you, sir, does it really matter whether a president is Mormon, Jewish, Baptist? Does it really matter at all, as long as that person can do the job?

LAND: Well, I think it depends on the candidate. And I think it depends on what the American people think. The American people have a funny way of deciding for themselves what they think is important. And clearly, the issue of Mitt Romney's faith has become one and a perplexing one.

COLMES: What do you think?

LAND: Well, I think he needs to address it.


LAND: He asked me to his home over a year ago, and he said, "What do I need to do?"

And I said, "Well, Governor, I think you need to give a speech like JFK gave." And I gave him a copy of the speech. As you know, it's an appendix in my book. I thought the speech was such a great speech that Senator Kennedy gave, that I — that I put it as an appendix in my book. Because it really is a plea for religious freedom, and it is a plea to say — Kennedy said, "Look, don't judge me on my faith. Judge me on my record. I'm not the Catholic candidate for president. I'm the Democratic Party's candidate."

COLMES: But are you saying that, all these years later, we're still a country that is not accepting a people who don't fit a very particular, narrow definition of religious faith and that, after all these years, having had a Catholic president, we still have to have a candidate come out and say, "I'm OK even though I'm not 'X'"?

LAND: Well, I think that's for the American people to decide and for Mitt Romney to decide. I think that this is an important speech. And I told Governor Romney and I told Governor Romney's people I think this is an important speech, it's even more important for America than it is for Mitt Romney.

I think that President Kennedy did a tremendous service to the country in giving the speech that he gave and reminding Americans that it should be what kind of America a president believes in, not what kind of faith they believe in. And he said, "Judge me on my record." And I think Governor Romney should say, "Don't judge me on what particular faith I have. Judge me on my record. Judge me on my policies. Judge me on my position.

COLMES: I guess the question I'm trying to get is why does that still need to be said 50 years after JFK? Have we not progressed in terms of accepting people of different faiths?

LAND: Well, I think that we are a far more tolerant situation now than we were then, but I think that Mormonism is still very controversial in this country. And ignoring that, Alan, is not going to make it go away.

And that's why I think that the governor needs to give a speech to remind Americans of the kind of values that Senator Kennedy reminded Americans of in his September 12 speech in 1960.

HANNITY: Dr. Land, it's Sean Hannity. Thank you for being with us.

LAND: Hey, Sean.

HANNITY: I've got to tell you. I am a little tired of this constant back and forth about Governor Romney's faith, personal faith. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I mean, Presbyterians disagree with Methodists, disagree with Catholics, disagree with LDS.

It seems that the bigger issue is the value system. In spite of these doctrinal differences. And he has been asked ad nauseum about this thing here. And I think it's fundamentally now unfair.

LAND: Well, I think, look, he would make a terrible mistake, both for his campaign and for the country, if he were to give a speech Thursday and he were to talk about the beliefs of Mormonism.

John F. Kennedy didn't talk about what Catholicism believed. He talked about the right of a Catholic to run for president. And I hope that the governor is going to give a similar kind of speech in which he is going to say, "The church I believe in should matter only to me. It doesn't belong in a presidential campaign. Judge me on my record."

Now, let me put my cards on the table, Alan, and Sean. I'm an evangelical Christian. I do not believe that Mormonism is an orthodox with a small "o," Trinitarian with a capital "T", apostolic with a capital "A" historic Christian faith.

But that shouldn't be a disqualification for running for the president of the United States!

HANNITY: But is — would that prevent — sir, would that prevent you from voting for him?

LAND: I don't endorse candidates, but his faith...

HANNITY: I didn't ask you that.

LAND: His faith would not keep me from voting for him, as long as he made it clear, as John Kennedy did — John Kennedy said, "I will be — I will be guided by my conscience in the decisions I make."

HANNITY: Well, I have discussed this with Governor Romney. I probably have asked him the question ten times at this point, because at each point I was interviewing him, it's back in the news again and again and again.

LAND: Right.

HANNITY: He has said that. He has mentioned that repeatedly here. I've got to tell you something. I was raised a Catholic. I'm a Christian, pastor, and I've got to tell you something, my faith is important to me. It's a big part of my life.

But I've got to tell you. I have many friends that are LDS, and the values that I have as a Christian are exactly the values that they are living in their lives with little distinction. There are small distinctions.

What sometimes bothers me, you know, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, and LDS, it's like that there's more that they agree on and yest, and so many things that would unite them, and it seems like we're looking for distinctions to tear each other apart.

LAND: Well, Sean, that's why I said that over a year ago, the governor needs to give this speech. Kennedy didn't talk about this just one time. He talked about it over and over and over again.

But it wasn't until he gave this speech that he wasn't able to focus the attention of the nation and deal with the issue so that he didn't have to talk about his Catholicism. He could talk about the issues on which he was running for president.

HANNITY: Appreciate it. Dr. Land, thanks for being with us.

LAND: You bet.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2007 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.