A Matter of Conscience
Song of the Week: Faithless

Is Romney's Religion Fair Game?

This article in today's Deseret News is just the latest to discuss the subject of how Mitt Romney's Mormonism is a recurring theme in his quest for the Presidency.  This morning I was watching the local Fox News affiliate and they had Chris Wallace on talking about the number of questions Romney received about his personal religious views in a recent debate.  And a video clip of Romney debating with a conservative radio talk-show host in Iowa has been one of the more popular clips of the week on YouTube.  The question people are asking is this: to what extent is Romney's Mormon faith fair game?

This columnist thinks questioning Romney about his religion is out of bounds.  Many Mormons agree.  I don't, and here's why.  Romney has obtained a tremendous amount of support from other Mormons, especially in Utah.  Now, I am sure that most Mormons who are supporting Romney's candidacy will protest that they are supporting him not because he shares their religious views but because politically he is the candidate who most closely represents their own conservative Republican opinions.  They will likely point out that they don't support Harry Reid, for example, simply because he is Mormon.  But to test this, we need only ask one simple question: if Mitt Romney were to resign his membership in the LDS Church tomorrow, would the Mormons who support him today continue to send him money, and would they vote for him next year?  If the answer is "yes," then we can accept the protests of his Mormon supporters as genuine.  If the answer is "no," then we can safely assume that Romney's religion is a primary factor in the support he is receiving from a significant number of people and a substantial percentage of those who are currently funding his campaign.  Does anyone seriously think that if Romney were to resign his church membership, his level support in Utah would not decline precipitously?  That so much of Romney's support is coming from Mormons who would not be supporting him if he were to leave the church puts his religious views front and center in his campaign.  He can't have it both ways.  He can't take the money, the volunteers, and the votes that he is receiving because of his membership in the LDS Church and at the same time say with a straight face that he is "not running as a Mormon."  And for that reason, his religious views are fair game in a way that other candidates' are not.  They are not getting money and support because of their religion.  Romney is.

Update: For more along these lines, see here.

Comments

ujlapana

I agree with you overall--religion, along with race, gender, and sexual orientation should all be air game for didcussion. Different people will have different ideas of how important those factors are, so debate should be readily available.

I'm sure Mormons are lining up Romney because of religion--they're incredibly overrepresented among his support base: 2% of Republicans but something over 50% of his supporters.

I don't think the exmormon approach holds the same way though. Most Christians didn' vote for GWB because he's Christian, but if he had been an ex-Christian atheist he would be a footnote from 2000. You don't have to be Mormon to win Mormon support, being Mormon doesn't guarantee Mormon support, but being an exMormon probably guarantees NO Mormon support!

Equality

ujlpana,

If you are correct, what does that say about Romney's Mormon supporters and the charge they sometimes levy that people who oppose Romney because he is Mormon and ask him questions about his faith are religious bigots? If there are Mormons supporting Romney now but would not support him if he became an ex-Mormon, aren't they as much religious bigots as the people they say are bigots for opposing Romney now?

DPC

Mitt Romney is well-connected to business all over the United States. That is the main source of most of the money. If he is a serious candidate, I would want to know a lot more about those relationships and what they entail than what type of underwear he wears or whether he thinks that Godhead is composed of three separate beings as opposed to one. Romney doesn't need to rely on Mormon support to get elected. He gave Ted Kennedy a run for his money in 1994 and he won the Massachusetts governorship without vast Mormon support. Outside of Utah, Mormons are such a vast minority, that I doubt that they would have much of an influence in the important swing states of Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania. Plus it sets a bad precedent. How will we ever have a snake-handler or Wiccan elected to the Presidency if they have to defend their non-mainstream beliefs to (hostile) non-believers?

Mayan Elephant

as far as i know, harry reid is not a candidate for potus. so, the arguments here about supporting him or not are as meaningful as comparing their support for wilford brimley and steve (taking the discussions) martin.

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