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The Link Between Mitt Romney's Impeachment Vote And His Faith

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict President Trump on the first impeachment article, abuse of power. In explaining his vote, Senator Romney, clearly emotional, invoked his faith.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: I'm sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded of me?

MARTIN: We wanted more perspective on this, so we've called Hal Boyd. He teaches courses on the philosophy of religion at Brigham Young University and recently wrote about this in the Deseret News. That's an outlet owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith group of which Senator Romney is a lifelong member. I asked Hal Boyd which principles of the faith may have informed the senator's decision.

HAL BOYD: Well, there is absolutely a strong tradition within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the Latter-day Saints faith of adherence to the Constitution or valuing the Constitution as a document of great importance for Americans and something that should be revered in reverence. And so that comes through very clearly in - what Senator Romney is saying is that he takes his duty to the Constitution, his oath before God to uphold the Constitution as something that is quite important to him. And as you mentioned - and I'm glad you played the clip - he became quite emotional at that moment.

MARTIN: One of the reasons that stood out for many people is that when Senator Romney was the Republican nominee for president, he never hid his faith. But it didn't seem to me that he made it so clear how important it is in his life as he did in that moment. And it just - and I'm just interested in that.

BOYD: As we look into what Senator Romney said - I'm glad you again highlighted the words that he said because I think there's been somewhat of a misreading both on the left and on the right of what Senator Romney was saying. Some have interpreted it as his faith dictated his vote or that he brought faith directly into a governing process. And I think what I - actually, when looking at his words or trying to read them as I have, he seems to be saying - my faith inspired me to take my duty, seriously, to meet out, to offer impartial judgment under the Constitution. And my oath to God requires that of me. And I think that's something we can appreciate, regardless of how someone votes. Did they take their responsibilities seriously? Or did they let partisan interests or other interests cloud the impartial judgment of the process?

MARTIN: The president seemed to swipe at Senator Romney on two occasions in his post-impeachment remarks, first at the Prayer Breakfast and then in his kind of long speech in the East Room, saying that he didn't - you know, he didn't like people who invoke their faith to do the wrong thing, as he believes the wrong thing to be. I was just wondering if people have feelings about that, if you're hearing people talk about that as well.

BOYD: Yeah, I think it certainly made headlines here. I think people are talking about it. I believe, you know, the president's words with regard to using faith as to - you know, to dictate the vote - I think it's important to realize that the way Senator Romney seemed to use the faith was this is the faith that has shaped me to take my duty, seriously. And I think other people of different faith traditions, of different political affiliations see that faith does shape us or can, at its best, shape us to be the people to carry out the important work to the public and to those that they serve.

And so I think there can be a broad appreciation that the invocation of faith was not one of saying my religion should dictate policy or dictate an outcome to convict or acquit but, rather, my faith has shaped me into the type of person who understands the gravity of this process and is going to do what the Constitution requires of me and to do the right in as much as I'm able to see the right.

MARTIN: That was Brigham Young University professor Hal Boyd. He's a former opinion editor at the Deseret News. And we're talking about an op-ed that he just published in the Deseret News. Professor Boyd, thanks so much for talking to us.

BOYD: Thank you Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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