No Religious Test…Except for Conservatives?

By | October 13, 2011 | 0 Comments


…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
U.S. Constitution, Article VI

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for president. But questions are being raised about his Mormon faith. Similar questions were raised when Romney ran in 2008. Some of these questions are raised by conservative Christians who disagree with his theology.
But even here, the liberal media spread disinformation. A prominent Evangelical pastor questioned Romney’s Mormon beliefs. The New York Times headline read, “Prominent Pastor Calls Romney’s Church a Cult.” But as Dennis Prager points out, if you read the full article, in the next-to-last paragraph you find that the pastor concluded, “I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.” So the headline should have read, “Evangelical Pastor Prefers Romney to Obama.”
Instances in which Evangelicals question Romney’s faith are emphasized by the liberal press. But many of the questions are raised by liberals themselves, who hope to stir up conflict among Republicans. For example, take the recent cover of Newsweek showing Romney jumping around like a crazed fanatic, holding a book − presumably the Book of Mormon − with text reading, “The Mormon Moment.”

And don’t forget the 2008 cover of Time, showing a photo of Romney with the text, “Sure, He Looks Like a President. But What Does Mitt Romney Really Believe?”

Excuse me, but whose business is it what Romney’s religious beliefs really are? In fact, this is a blatant attack on Latter-day Saints theology. In fact, this is a glaring example of liberal religious bigotry. In fact, it is a colossal case of hypocrisy: “Republicans are religious bigots, but we Democrats are tolerant, sensitive, and diverse − so we can do whatever we please to further our agenda.”
This is hardly the only example of liberal bigotry. Recall the questioning of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito by Senate Democrats, who pointedly asked whether his Catholic faith would influence his rulings. Of course, no one asked nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan whether their deeply held liberal beliefs − from religious or secular sources − would influence their rulings. It was simply assumed that this was the case. Liberals are allowed to be influenced by their beliefs, but conservatives − no way!
Nor is this bigotry limited to national politics. Some years ago, the chief of police of Los Angeles retired, and the city council considered his successor. But the top scorer on the written exam, Assistant Chief Robert Vernon, was a member of a local Evangelical church. His religious views were hot topics in the Los Angeles Times, and eventually he was forced to retire − a loss for the city. The new chief who was selected was hardly his equal, but no one questioned his religious beliefs − he wasn’t a conservative.
Why am I interested in Romney and his faith? Let me tell you a story − an American story. My parents and I spent the first eight years of my life in Lisbon, North Dakota, a town of 2000 people. My father was a physician. I vividly remember him coming home frostbitten after a house call in a snowstorm. We were the only Jews in the county, and as I grew older my parents felt the need to introduce me to my religion. For this and other reasons, we moved to Boise, Idaho.
There was a small Reform Jewish congregation, but they did not hold Sabbath services on Friday evening. So my father and a colleague borrowed the synagogue and organized a small Conservative congregation. The Reform congregation needed their synagogue for the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so we had to find space elsewhere.
My father and his colleague found a place − the meeting room in the Mormon Temple. I believe the rent was either low or forgiven entirely. There were no crucifixes, images, or statues, so we had no problem.
At the age of eight, I was introduced to the holiest days of my Jewish faith in the meeting room of the Mormon Temple in Boise, Idaho. That couldn’t have happened in any other country − in Canada or Australia, just possibly, but nowhere else. We have many faults, but when it comes to real tolerance − not just phony blather − America is the best.
So perhaps you will understand why I have a special place in my heart for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My only problem with them is whether “day” should be capitalized.
Perhaps you will understand why I paced the floor in anger when TV news showed an unruly crowd demonstrating in front of the Los Angeles Mormon Temple. The crowd was furious that the LDS Church had contributed to Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The proposition passed with over 52% of the vote in 2008, but it was blocked by a judge who himself turned out to be gay, and the case remains in legal limbo three years later. So much for “Power to the people.”
As the mob milled about in front of the Temple, carrying nasty signs and yelling insults, some members threw trash over the fence, and a few tried to climb it, but fortunately it was too high. On the lawn behind the fence stood two young men, typically in conservative suits and ties. What they could have done if the mob scaled the fence I don’t know, and the police remained politely out of sight blocks away. They had to be politically correct, you see.
Mormons have long experience in being persecuted. In fact, no religious group has suffered in America as have Mormons. They were founded in Upstate New York by Joseph Smith. But they were driven out by pogroms, and settled for a time in Illinois and Missouri. Even worse pogroms met them there.
Interestingly, Joseph Smith announced his candidacy for president on a platform of abolition of slavery. But Smith was taken by a mob and lynched. The governor of Missouri actually issued a shoot-to-kill order for Mormons. So they fled again, led by Brigham Young, and wound up in Utah, and to a lesser extent in Idaho, where I observed the Jewish High Holidays as their guest.
But here is an interesting sidelight. This year we are observing the 100th anniversary of the Model 1911 pistol, which is still in use by elite units, including the Marine Special Operations Command and LAPD SWAT. How many other mechanical devices are still in use, in virtually unchanged form, a century after their invention?
The inventor of this and many other firearms was John Moses Browning, who was a Mormon. But this wasn’t coincidental. You see, his father was born in Illinois and was a friend of Brigham Young. The elder Browning participated in the exodus to Utah, where the Brownings opened a gunsmith shop in Ogden. His father’s stories of persecution may well have intensified young Browning’s interest in firearms.
In high-school ROTC, I was taught to disassemble a Model 1911A1 pistol by a master sergeant with combat ribbons. At the time I had never heard of John Moses Browning, but later I learned about him − and about the persecutions his people had undergone. These seemingly unrelated events − my religious observance in the Boise Temple, the weapons lessons on Browning’s pistol, the mob in front of the Los Angeles Temple, the bigoted magazine covers, and the criticism of Romney − are related after all.
So perhaps you will understand when I become upset when I see magazine covers belittling and mocking the faith of Mitt Romney. Perhaps you will sympathize when I pace the floor in anger as a mob assaults a Mormon Temple because of a political and moral stand the LDS Church took. Perhaps you will agree when I insist that “no religious test” means NO religious test. Not for conservatives. Not for Catholics. Not for Evangelicals. Not for Mormons. Not for anyone.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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