Live From a City on a Hill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 22 2011 3:44 PM

Live From a City on a Hill

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ralph Reed has never lost his knack for PR. His Faith & Freedom Coalition ("Pro-Family, Pro-Freedom") is holding its inaugural Florida conference right across the street from the Florida GOP's three-day "Presidency 5" summit/debate/straw poll. Seven presidential candidates will speak on a stage framed on the right by the American flag, the state flag of Florida, and the flag of Israel. Dozens of reporters are set up at and behind a stage to take it all in.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The first activist I talked to was Hal Stein, a retiree who'd relocated from Illinois to a small town south of Orlando. He was here to see Mitt Romney, he said. "Perry scares me," he explained. "When he talks about Social Security being a Ponzi scheme, I know it's the truth, but I don't think it's the way to win. And we need to win. We need to beat Obama. It's gonna be tougher than people think it is."

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I noticed that William Temple, the costumed "Tea Party patriot" who materializes at every one of these events as if beamed down from the Enterprise, was seated not far from us. Stein, wanting to meet him, waved him over. We chatted briefly about Temple's favorite topic of the day: The Christian faith of the founders.

"They said that we might lose our way if we didn't elect Christians," said Temple. "And I ask you, have we gotten there yet?"

Who was "they"? It wasn't from the Constitution, Temple explained. He pulled out a sheaf of paper, flipping past some maps of Orlando to find a quote from revolutionary era North Carolina Gov. Samuel Johnston.

It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans, pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President, or other high office, but in one of two cases. First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.

"I wrote an article about the founders for the Daily Caller, and I used that," said Temple. "They took that quote out."

Why?

"'We have a lot of Jewish readers!'

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.