I have been watching the recent controversy over Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith through two prisms. One is the vision of the appropriate relationship between government and religion, as set out by America’s Founders; the other is my own experience in 2000 as the first Jewish American to be nominated for national office.

The Founders’ vision is relevant because, from the beginning, America has been a creedal nation, defined by our values, not our borders. One of those founding values was a belief in God. The United States was formed, as the Declaration of Independence says, to secure for the people of this country the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that were “endowed by their Creator.”

In that way, the United States of America was and is a faith-based initiative.

While America was predicated on the religious values of our Christian Founders, our founding documents remarkably guarantee the right of every American to hold elective office regardless of religion. Article VI of the Constitution explicitly banned religious tests for elective officials; and the great First Amendment prohibited the “establishment” of an official religion, ensuring for every American the right to worship — or not to worship — as they choose.

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