A caller to the show after Romney’s segment claimed he wouldn’t vote for Romney because he didn’t “trust the Mormon church,” though he didn’t elaborate on his reasons. For sure, there are a lot of reasons for people to be wary of the Mormon church. The Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, for instance, where over 100 people were killed by a party of Paiute Indians and members of the Mormon militia, perhaps acting on the orders of Mormon leader Brigham Young; or the church’s history of racism, especially toward blacks; or – and this only really bothers conservative Christians – the fact that their beliefs about Jesus aren’t exactly orthodox. And, fairly or not, there are still quite a few folks who regard Mormons as a wicked lot of polygamists.
It’s not fair to disqualify someone to be President on the basis of religion, no matter how violent or intolerant the history of the faith may be. There weren’t large blocks of voters opposing Methodist George W. Bush over the countless crimes – past and present – of Christianity, so why punish Mitt Romney? Because the rejection by some of Romney’s candidacy goes beyond the particulars of Mormonism. The people who object to Romney on religious grounds aren’t doing so because he’s a Mormon; they’re doing so because he isn’t a Christian.
I found a poll posted to Rasmussen Reports this past November which testified that 43% of American voters – and 53% of Christian Evangelical voters – surveyed would not even consider voting for a Mormon candidate for President of the United States. Mormons fared better than other non-Christians named in the poll: 61% of likely voters polled said they would never consider voting for a Muslim candidate, and 60% said they would never consider voting for an atheist candidate. On his show yesterday, Medved cited a few other recent polls that came up with similar results. I’m not really surprised; Evangelicals are fed a steady diet of religious bigotry by high profile preachers like D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell. Turn on TBN for any significant length of time and you’ll get about equal servings of Muslim- and atheist-bashing.
To his credit, Medved took up for Romney, and Mormons in general, stating that religion shouldn’t be a qualification or a liability for government office, arguing that ones record and political beliefs are more important than what God one believes in – or doesn’t believe in. A few minutes later, though, when a caller referenced Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, Medved seemed to agree with the caller that Ellison’s religious beliefs were cause for concern. “No Mormons anywhere are strapping bombs to themselves and shouting ‘Death to America,’” Medved . . . I hesitate to type “reasoned,” since the statement reminded me of Glenn Beck’s stupendously ill-reasoned remark during an interview with Congressman Ellison on his CNN Headline News show, “Prove to me you’re not working with our enemies.”
Incidentally, the caller didn’t actually name Ellison; he referred to him as “the one who put his hand on the Koran.” Am I confused? What year am I living in? What part of the world? Because I could have sworn I was in the United States and it was fucking 2007. Do we really find ourselves in such a miserable circumstance, where callers to a nationally syndicated radio show are referring to people of different social or ethnic or religious groups as “them?” Keith Ellison was born in Detroit, and lives in and represents Minnesota, for Christ’s sake. He’s not one of “them” – he’s one of “us.” The Koran he was sworn-in on is almost 250 years old and belonged to noted Islamic radical Thomas Jefferson.
So Thomas Jefferson owned a Koran, you might be saying – this isn’t a Muslim country. Fair enough. This isn’t a Christian country, either, and it never has been when it comes to the government. The Founding Fathers may have been church-going, Bible-thumping Jesus lovers – some of them undoubtedly were – but they designed a government that was adamantly secular. Christianity is not a pre-requisite for elected office. Find me a candidate who is honest and intelligent, who will protect the rights of the people and hold their interests above all others, and I don’t care if he’s a Christian, a Jew, a Mormon, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Confucian, a Zoroastrian, or an atheist. I don’t even care if he’s a he – refusing to vote for someone on basis of sex is just as asinine as refusing based on religion, or ethnicity, or sexual preference, or any other arbitrary personal trait you could name. My friend from American Government and fellow LJ’er Jamie (that's makeminemaudlin to you) is an atheist, and I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. That fact that I believe in God and he doesn’t is irrelevant.
When John F. Kennedy ran for President in 1960 people said the same sort of things about his Catholicism as some are saying now about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. They worried that Kennedy would be a puppet for the Vatican. Kennedy won the election and people got over it; they saw Kennedy wasn’t going to serve at the foot of the Pope – hell, for all I know it was Paul VI who killed the poor bastard. If you don’t want to vote for Mitt Romney, then don’t vote for him. I sure as fuck wouldn’t – not because he’s a Mormon, but because he opposes campaign finance reform and gay marriage, and he’s a clueless dolt who still uses phrases like “tar baby” in public. There are plenty of excellent reasons to tell Mitt Romney to fuck off; his religion isn’t one of them.