Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That Mormon Question

Mark Davis bravely asks something I've been wrestling with regarding the oft-mentioned question of Mitt Romney's religion: "...are objecting voters revealing religious bigotry or a natural predilection for candidates more spiritually similar?... Are they religious bigots who should be scolded for intolerance, or is their requirement for a candidate who shares their faith no different from criteria on other matters?"

In recent weeks I have often heard pundits, including Hugh Hewitt and Sean Hannity, scold those who would consider Romney's religious views, let alone consider them to be a negative factor. We are told voters should not consider a candidate's "deeply held personal religious views," just their competency to serve. We are reminded that there is no "religious test" to hold office, and of course there is no such actual test under the Constitution. But is it completely illegitimate for a voter to consider a candidate's religion as a factor in deciding who would best represent the voter's views?

Along similar lines, in coming months voters likely will be pondering whether or not Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich's three marriages apiece say anything important about their character and their competency to serve in office. We may consider whether or not they have lived up to the religious or moral values we would like to see in the leader of our nation, or whether those are personal issues which will have little impact on their ability to carry out their role as President. We may be considering John McCain's legendary temper -- or his being twice married, for that matter. We may be considering which politicians' changes in political views are an authentic "evolution" or positions taken for political expediency, in which case that may impact how we assess their character. We may consider whether a candidate agrees with our position on when life begins, which in some ways is inextricably bound with religious views.

To go on to a hypothetical issue, I think it would be reasonable to ask, for example, whether a Muslim candidate's religious views, in Davis's words, "harbors the possibility of guiding his or her actions in a way I would disapprove of." Not to consider that issue in this particular day and age would be, I think, irresponsible and unrealistic.

Is it thus also fair for a voter to consider whether he believes a candidate shows wisdom in his choice of religion, and what the choice does or doesn't say about the candidate?

I've been moving to the conclusion that this isn't bigotry, but a reasonable issue to consider -- along with similar factors as mentioned above -- as one assesses a candidate.

This is a very difficult topic to broach, as in some quarters one is automatically labeled a bigot for even raising the issue for consideration. But it's something that voters are going to have to grapple with over the next year and a half, and the time to think about it is now.


Blogger Cathy said...

I hope I can offer you a different perspective on the matter of LDS. I used to be Mormon. I was asked to leave the church and Laura, if you want the gory details of it all I'll be happy to share them with you offline. In any event I was happy to leave. The conclusion of my thoughts on LDS is that it is a cult. From a fundamental perspective, you must believe that Joseph Smith was a modern day prophet of God... there are other covenants that are not cohesive with Christianity that also expedited my departure from the church.

With that said... the Mormons came in to our lives and helped us when we needed help. The church is just that... they do not believe in hand outs, but rather a hand up. By and large, the people of the church are by far the most consistent and devout you will ever meet in any religion. In other words, they are not Sunday Christians. They are devout 24/7. Family is at the center of their beliefs. Family is the most important thing. I have the utmost respect for members of LDS. These are good, kind, respectful, responsible people. They raise good, kind, respectful, and responsible children. By design, Mormons are conservatives (how Harry Reid fits into that is beyond me... must be a backslidin' Mormon...)

Radio talk show host,Glenn Beck is also a member of LDS- I have a lot of respect for him as well. I'm not sure what his testimony is, but I suspect the Mormon's came knocking on his door at a vulnerable time in his life based on what he has revealed on his radio program about his own life.

Mitt Romney is the poster child for LDS. I do not intend that as an insult- to the contrary, it is a compliment. He has maintained high moral standing, by living and doing what the church doctrine teach.

If one were to hold up Mitt against the others running, based on living a conservative moral life- he would be the frontrunner.

One has to make that "leap of faith" with Mitt Romney. Can he run the country, live to the expectations of his church and not have it influence his decisions? This is tough- his religion formed his foundation. It would be easy to vilify Mitt if he were a blatant Satan worshiper... understanding that as a cult is easier to get our minds around. Nice people that don't impose their views is more abstract. I don't know. The question I think that faces conservatives is are they willing to vote for a man that they believe follows a cult or worse, something they don't understand?

Personally, I am not opposed to him based on his religious beliefs. You actually pointed out some things here that offered me food for thought as to why I shouldn't vote for him.

Time will tell... but whoever (or is it whomever) we pick must be strong... strong enough to keep this nation together... strong enough to do the right thing... must be a powerful orator and have the ability to communicate to the masses effectively...

and sorry for this being so long!!!

4:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Cathy, thank you for a fascinating post, you're welcome to comment here as long as you like. :) You raise some excellent issues here, and the insight you add from your personal background and how that may (or may not) influence your choice is most interesting. I appreciate you sharing the variety of thoughts you have expressed here. Much to think about.

Best wishes,

6:24 PM  
Blogger BlueMoon said...

The Republicans better get behind the candidacy of Mitt Romney--and pretty fast--if they want to have any chance of retaining the White House. Forget his religion, it's Romney or bust. It's all about image, folks. Go back and read the books of Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman--more relevant now than when they hit the scene 30-40 years ago. Examine the OTHER Republican candidates, all of them gargoyles. John McCain looks a 100-years-old and he frightens little children. He's out. Rudy Guiliani looks like a goombah who'd sell the Brooklyn Bridge to tourists from Iowa. He's out. Newt Gingrich is a slob like Bill Clinton without the charm. He's out. Mike Huck-something from Arkansas looks like a goober. He's out. Romney is probably the most handsome man to run for office since Jack Kennedy. He looks like a 1940s movie star. That's going to make all the difference with a Hillary candidacy. In a Hillary-McCain match-up, for instance, the female vote will go to Hillary by default. A Hillary-Romney contest it's a whole different game. Romney is the rich, good-looking, well-dressed guy all women wished they could have married instead of the couch potato in front of the TV. All of sudden, Hillary becomes a bossy old hag with fat ankles--and Romney walks away with the chick vote just like Kennedy in 1960. It's the only chance the Republicans have. As far as his Mormon religion, that's another benefit for Romney. It makes him something of an outsider and an oddball, which plays well with big-city Democrats, liberals and perverts. He's not just another old-boy Republican like Bush and Cheney. Check it out at and get on the ball or face the consequences.

8:16 PM  
Blogger jau said...

VERY interesting food for thought from all of you. I have a question, though. If Mitt were a Scientologist, how would you all feel? I guess both LDS and Scientology seem like cults with too much nuttiness for my taste to think I would want to need to trust an adherent.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blue Moon: that assessment is a little scary, but food for thought (grin).

Anne: Scientology raises the same questions about personal judgment that the LDS Church raises for me. I know absolutely lovely people who are Mormons, but when one is deciding who one wants to vote for as the leader of our nation, I think the religious issue merits consideration. Mormonism and Scientology share "issues" with regards to their origins and secrecy which I think are reasonable to assess when voting for a candidate who is an adherent...just as we also assess how well other candidates live up to their espoused religious and moral values.

Best wishes,

9:17 PM  
Blogger jau said...

Laura, I totally agree with you. On the other hand, my daughter would maintain that there is not necessarily a straight line from how one behaves, oneself, to how one governs. So many political leaders, kings, queens, etc. have affairs, she points out, and yet many have governed well. And there are always those rumors about Masons and Skull&Crossbones, etc., etc., even about George Washington himself. It's difficult to know how to base one's assessments, that's for sure.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a good point too, Anne. For example, the candidate I agree with the most from a political perspective is Newt Gingrich, but there's a disconnect between his personal behavior, which hasn't always been the most admirable, and his great effectiveness communicating conservative principles. How much weight do we give the personal vs. the public/political?

And I think Rudy would be a better leader than McCain, but Rudy has some of the same issues as Newt. It's a real conundrum, this coming election in particular.

Best wishes,

8:59 AM  

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