Dear 100 Hour Board,
If Mitt Romney were to become President, would he go to church most weeks? Do most Presidents have time to attend services weekly? What ward would he attend? Would the congregation have to go through metal detectors in order to go to church with him? And I don't mean to be disrespectful, but what about temple attendance, would they have to get some Mormon Secret Service agents to attend with him? I know his chances of becoming President aren't extremely likely at this point, but they're better than the rest of us! Thanks.
- Pirate Pants
We've got an alumnus with a bit of an insider's perspective on Mr. Romney. I'm glad to report that here follows an answer from our dear friend, Horatio.
-Just Another Cassio
...rooting for Mr. Romney.
This is a question that seems to be on the mind of many a Mormon: would President Romney continue to be "active" during his term as President of the United States. The answer to that question would be YES: he would be as active as his situation would allow.
Presidents of the United States have generally been religious men (all Protestant Christians except for JFK who was Catholic). But, their
attendance at services has varied over time. And, of course, no President has been elected from a denomination which expects 3 or more hours every Sunday (that is, until November 2008... I'm optimistic. Ok, well, actually I am Horatio and Optimistic is Optimistic. But, that doesn't preclude me from being optimistic).
President George W. Bush is a very religious man, listed as a United Methodist, and I heard him say he tries to read the Bible every single day. He cites his religious awakening as a major turning point in his life, and the key to his recovery from alcoholism. But, the constraints of his office don't often allow him to attend or be active in a congregation. He attends ceremonial events and occasional services, but not weekly.
Other than JFK, most presidents would attend St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square. It is immediately across the park from the White House (to the North) and is often called the "Church of the Presidents." It is convenient and easily secured. The Secret Service know it well.
Other notably religious Presidents since Kennedy were Johnson (who attended a lot of different churches depending on the relative he was attending with) and Carter (who was a Baptist). Reagan claimed to be a Presbyterian; George HW Bush claimed Episcopal; and Clinton's religion is listed as "Christianity (Baptist)". I'm not sure why the parenthetical aside there.
But, with that historical trip through Presidential religion... we turn to the first President who would claim membership in the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Mitt Romney (who has a pretty good chance of taking the Oval Office... better than I would have expected). I have done a bit of research into this, and the answer comes from a combination of Horatio Speculation (which has a pretty good record of truth) and some thoughts from a person close to Mitt Romney (who will remain anonymous... just trust me).
First, Mitt Romney is an active member of the LDS Church. And, as such, he would try to attend church as much as possible. My contact said "my best guess is that he will attend as often as possible, although I'm sure he will travel a ton and will be unable to make it regularly." It would be very difficult for him to attend regular Church services, and his attendance may cause more of a disruption than is necessary.
Last I checked, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is within the boundaries of the Chevy Chase Ward which meets in a great old building in Friendship Heights (5460 Western Ave, Chevy Chase, MD 20815). In that case, he would be in the congregation with Democratic Senator Harry Reid and other notable members of the church in Washington. I believe Orrin Hatch also attends that ward when he is in town, but I know I've seen Reid there (it was rather surreal to be in Sacrament Meeting with the then-Senate Minority Leader).
Secretary George Romney, Mitt Romney's father, attended the Chevy Chase ward while he served as Secretary of Housing and Human Development (HUD) in the Nixon Administration (1969-73).
Under current Secret Service Protocols, everyone who would be within a certain radius of the President of the United States must go through a metal detector and be searched by Secret Service. They would also be subject to background checks and complete security. So, when POTUS was in attendance, I doubt if there would be any visitors.
I would leave the details of that situation up to the bishop. If I were to offer my advice to either the Bishop or to President Romney, I would encourage him to attend remotely every week, rather than become an inevitable disruption to the congregation (Mitt and Ann are such nice people, I think it would drive them crazy to inconvenience their fellow ward members).
So, I would suggest that they set up a closed-circuit feed or video of the latest sacrament meeting talks. The bishop could also assign strong Home Teachers to visit with Mitt and Ann in the White House on a regular basis. As for the Sacrament, I would suggest assigning the Aaronic Priesthood to prepare and take the Sacrament directly to the White House each week. It would be an excellent and memorable experience for each of those young men, and an opportunity for Mitt and Ann to serve and get to know the youth.
I think those are good compromises that allow Mitt and Ann to be active, even if they don't attend regularly. If I am ever asked for advice on the subject, that's what I'd say.
As for the Temple Attendance, that is a rather personal question (and was told such by my contact). The temple is, by nature, a relatively secure location. For the President of the United States to attend, it would require some significant concessions from both sides. I mean, would the church let bomb-sniffing dogs and full security checks on the premises? I would expect that the church would a be a little hesitant. Are there temple recommend-worthy members of the Secret Service in the Presidential Protection division? The Secret Service has a reputation of not being a very family-friendly or religion-friendly environment. So, that may be a hard thing to find.
In summary, the logistics of Mitt Romney's religious worship would add a whole new page to the Secret Service's protocol books. It will be interesting to see how they deal with it. But, for the time he is there, it will be a challenge for him to attend regular meetings or be an active member of the activities committee. I would guess that the local and general leadership of the church will accommodate his needs as he dedicates himself to serving his country.
Finally, I take issue with your final line. A year ago, I said that Romney has a slim chance at Vice President. Time has certainly changed circumstances. I declare without timidity that Mitt Romney CAN win the Presidency of the United States. He has the talent, the brains, the staff, and the strategy to do it. There are, of course, a gazillion steps between now and November 7. His biggest challenge will be winning the Republican Nomination. Last week, he pulled into first place in two of the three earliest nominating states (Iowa and New Hampshire). And, just today, a Rasmussen Poll put him ahead of John McCain nationally... in second place.
His name recognition numbers are low, but his poll numbers are strong. And, clearly, as people get to know him around the country, they tend to jump on the band wagon. This is material for a whole new question, so I will leave it at that. So, keep your eye on my blog for an upcoming rant on this subject.
The First Mormon in the White House will bring a host of new challenges. But, with what I know about Mitt, Ann and the rest of the Romney family, they will remain active members of the church throughout a presidential term (and beyond) and participate as much as they can. It will be a logistical nightmare for the Secret Service, but it's always healthy to have a new challenge.
Personally, I haven't been this excited about a candidate in my lifetime! And, I really think he can win. So, I welcome the logistics questions... it means that the best candidate on the docket will be in the White House.
That is all.
Horatio the Politico
(reporting live from the outside world)