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Mitt Romney said today no Mormon authority will influence what he does if he's elected President of the United States. With a religious test prohibited by the Constitution, should any candidate have to defend his or her religion? Does Mormonism raise special questions? Has Romney provided the answers some voters think they have a right to ask? Also, the President's plan to assist sub-prime mortgage holders, and a dispute over fortune telling in Southern California provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Gypsies.

Mitt Romney (2nd L) stands with his wife Anne, former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush at the George Bush Presidential Library, December 6, 2007 in College Station, Texas. The Republican President hopeful talked about the role of religion in government and his Mormon faith.
Photo: Ben Sklar/Getty Images

Making News Bush Gets Lenders to Freeze Sub-Prime Mortgage Rates 5 MIN, 37 SEC

With anxiety rising about the economy, President Bush today announced a plan to help homeowners with sub-prime mortgages. It would freeze the so-called "starter" interest rate for certain borrowers to prevent increases that could otherwise force them into foreclosure. Michael Mandel, chief economist for BusinessWeek magazine, is the author of Rational Exuberance.

Michael Mandel, Editor in Chief, Visible Economy

Main Topic Mitt Romney and Religion in America's Public Life 35 MIN, 29 SEC

Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy became America's first Catholic president after a speech in which he said no Catholic prelate would tell him what to do in the White House. In Texas today, less than 100 miles from where Kennedy made his address, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said he does not define his presidential candidacy by his Mormon religion. He promised that if he's elected "no authorities of [his] church… will ever exert influence on presidential decisions." With a Constitutional ban on religious tests for public office, is it political bigotry to question any candidate's faith, or does Mormonism raise specific questions some voters have the right to ask?  Did Romney tell them what they wanted to know?

Neil Swidley, Reporter, Boston Globe
Damon Linker, former Professor of Political Philosophy, Brigham Young University
Richard Bushman, Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
Janice Shaw Crouse, Concerned Women for America (@CWforA)
Barry W. Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Reporter's Notebook Gypsy Feud over Fortune-telling Business in Southern California 7 MIN, 41 SEC

In affluent Newport Beach in California's Orange County, two Gypsy clans have gone into court in a turf war over fortune-telling. It's a rare public airing of customs and practices that normally are kept secret from the rest of the world. The Merino clan claims that the Stevens clan broke into an office, stole a credit card machine and threatened to kill a Merino couple if they didn't shut down a fortune-telling operation. The case has revealed a system of intermarriage and social customs going back generations. Anne Sutherland, a professor of anthropology at the University of California in Riverside, is author of Gypsies: The Hidden Americans.

Anne Sutherland, Professor of Anthropology, University of California-Riverside

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