Ann Romney has given her own assessment of her husband's speech on faith in America:

"People were saying, 'It was like George Washington,' 'It was the Gettysburg Address.'"

Mine is a little different, in the Sunday Times today:

Romney, it should be remembered, is not the first Mormon to run for president. That distinction is awarded to the founder of Mormonism himself, Joseph Smith Jr, who ran in 1844 on an abolitionist platform and in defence of the rights of religious minorities. Mormon Joseph_smith_jr_1843_photograph political history has long been strongly secularist in this respect – because Mormons were once a sect brutally persecuted by majority Christians.

But in that campaign, Smith coined a term that strangely resonates today. “There is not a nation or a dynasty now occupying the earth which acknowledges almighty God as their lawgiver,” Smith told the Neighbor newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois. “I go emphatically, virtuously and humanely, for a theodemocracy, where God and the people hold the power to conduct the affairs of men in righteousness.”

Theodemocracy: the blending of government with a universally Christian populace in which faith is the prerequisite of public office. This is the vision of America that Romney is proposing. He has behind him the power brokers of the Protestant right, the theocons of the Catholic right, the Mormon church and the vested interests of a Republican party elite that, in the wake of George W Bush, wants to extend the theodemocratic principles of an antisecular movement.

Under the guise of defending freedom of conscience in the public sphere, Romney is actually attempting to limit it.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.