Joe Conason on Salon.com gives a good assessment of the Mitt Romney vs. Mike Huckabee situation. In short: both are religionists effectively supporting religious tests of a sort, but Romney's implying that his Mormonism lets him pass the test; Huckabee's implying that Romney's Mormonism means he fails the test, or at most passes with marks much lower than Huckabee's.
The Rev. Huckabee has proved willing to risk his oversold reputation as the "nice" evangelical with a primary strategy that draws attention to his qualifications as a "Christian leader," in contrast to the suspect Mormonism of Romney.
In response, Romney delivered an address that simultaneously pleaded for religious tolerance and urged intolerance of what he termed the "religion of secularism."
Phonies like Huckabee and Romney complain constantly about the supposed religious intolerance of secular liberals. But the truth is that liberals -- including agnostics and atheists -- have long been far more tolerant of religious believers in office than the other way around. They helped elect a Southern Baptist named Jimmy Carter to the presidency in 1976, and today they support a Mormon named Harry Reid who is the Senate majority leader -- which makes him the highest-ranking Mormon officeholder in American history. Nobody in the Democratic Party has displayed the slightest prejudice about Reid's religion.
Liberals and progressives have no apologies to make, or at least no more than libertarians and conservatives do. Cherishing the freedoms protected by a secular society need not imply any disrespect for religion. But when candidates like Romney and Huckabee press the boundaries of the Constitution to promote themselves as candidates of faith, it is time to push back.
(Image: Reuters photos from the Salon.com Conason commentary.)