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Mitt Romney: Is America Ready for a Mormon President?

Posted on the 19 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney's awkward hand gestures may not be enough to convince Republicans that his Mormon faith doesn't matter. Photo Credit: World Affairs Council of Philadelphia,

When President John F. Kennedy was running for the presidency in 1960 and 1961, many were sceptical that a Roman Catholic could ever win. But that was 1960, you’ll say. Faith shouldn’t be an issue in selecting a president today. Well, Kennedy was a Democrat, and there hasn’t been another Catholic president since. Issues of faith continue to heat politics over in the US, and nowhere so much as in the Republican party, where Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is being challenged by fellow Republican Rick Perry in the run-up to the GOP primaries.

Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress introduced Perry as a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ” at a Washington conference of Christian conservatives, The New York Times reported, before going on to say to reporters: “Mormonism is not Christianity. It’s not politically correct to say, but Mormonism is a cult.”

Perry distanced himself from the remarks, and Romney has taken a similar line to Kennedy, saying that it is entrenched in the US Constitution “that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion” and that he would put no doctrine of his church above the duties of office. Still, Romney is seen as very Mormon by some, who point to his Bishopric in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as evidence of an unusually strong faith. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 31 per cent of white evangelicals (a large portion of the GOP’s support base) and 15 per cent of all other Republicans said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.

Does being a Mormon really affect Romney’s chances of being President? Here’s what the commentariat has to offer:

Romney should answer questions about the sinister side of Mormonism. Staunch Atheist Chistopher Hitchens spent a great deal of time exposing what he considered “weird” about Mormonism in this column for Slate Magazine. Hitchens argued that he “should be asked to defend and explain himself, and his voluntary membership in one of the most egregious groups operating on American soil.”

Faith is ‘part of the presidential test’ for GOP candidates. In a column for The New York Times, liberal columnist Maureen Dowd questioned whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is right to baptise Holocaust victims as members of their church and that beliefs like these should force Republicans to take another look at Romney.

A Liberal invention, too. Jonathan Zimmerman for The Christian Science Monitor writes that other forms of religious and ethnic discrimination are frowned upon. He says that the widespread questioning of Romney’s faith comes from widespread prejudice in a Liberal media that is “gleeful at the prospect of a GOP civil war”.

The radical side of Romney’s Mormon belief might actually help him. Romney is seen as a moderate by most Republicans and he needs some radical kudos argued Mark Hemingway of the Right-wing National Review, who suggested that Romney’s association with his former Brigham Young University professor Cleon Skousen is evidence that he is “well-acquainted with a radical and firebrand conservatism — even if it is of the variety he might want to keep chained to a radiator in the attic.”


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