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A major argument that Hewitt employs to distinguish Mormons from fringe sectarians is that church members are now firmly ensconced in American life — a point made by David Broder and Stephen Hess when they wrote The Republican Establishment in 1967. That “Establishment,” of course, included Michigan Governor George Romney. Hewitt points out that two other Mormons, besides Romney’s father, have conducted recent presidential campaigns — Orrin Hatch and Mo Udall. To this list of prominent Latter-day Saint pols, one could add the name of Nevada’s Democrat Senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Beyond the fact that Mormons populate both sides of the political aisle, Mitt Romney’s record in very blue Massachusetts should suffice to rebut any conspiratorial ideas about a Utah-centered theocracy. Moreover, the candidate’s perfect-pitch responses to questions about the political influence of the Mormon Church are reinforced by statements from LDS leaders who forswear any role in partisan politics.
To acquaint readers with the general contours of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hewitt dedicates several pages to the group’s history and theology. (In 1996, Hewitt was involved in a PBS production, Searching for God in America, that also explored the Mormon faith.) Finally, as a supplement, the author provides a transcript of his conversation with two conservative Christian religion professors — a brief discussion about Mormonism and whether the two gentlemen could conscientiously vote to put a Mormon in the White House. (Both said they could cast such a vote.)
Beyond the damage done by needlessly ditching a talented Presidential candidate, Hewitt rues the harm that will befall the country if secular journalists and political operatives begin to scrutinize office-seekers’ religious beliefs. The “Mormonism is too weird” objection can easily become an argument against those who believe in transubstantiation, the Assumption of Mary, or the biblical account of creation. (Chris Matthews’ question about evolution, recently directed to GOP presidential candidates at the Reagan Library, is an example of what Hewitt hopes to avoid — queries that open the door to reportorial inquisitions about biblical inspiration, Papal authority, or whether candidates really believe this “crazy Jesus stuff.”)
Hewitt observes that an Atlantic Monthly journalist has already asked Romney about his liturgical undergarments — and that additional cases of anti-Mormon and anti-religious bigotry (e.g. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg) have popped up in the press. Media response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on partial-birth abortion also seems to validate Hewitt’s fears — as journalists who take their cue from New York Senator Chuck Schumer haven’t been shy about playing the “Catholic card” against judges presumably guided by Church dogma on the topic and not by established principles of jurisprudence.
In sum, Hewitt’s message is that Mitt Romney has become a political canary in the coalmine. If a man of Romney’s intellectual and professional stature is taken down simply because of his religious beliefs, others will follow. Permission will have been granted to destroy political opponents across the religious spectrum for believing “weird” things — or perhaps for being excessively moral in the eyes of a skeptical, secular press.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online