TPM has a thought-provoking article up about Romney and the Mormon question. They identify a hilarious problem facing the Romney campaign, and dance right up to the edge of the real conflict, but then they step back:
If Romney were to publicly argue that “the separation of church and state is absolute,” he would be thumbing his nose at some of the very people he hopes to impress. Conservative activists — indeed, the very people who worry about the “Momon question” — want more intermingling between religion and government, not less.
This is a great point to make: current Republican candidates are absolutely counting on winning the votes of people who WANT them, as a matter of official policy, to violate the US Constitution. TPM does a great job of making this point but it bears repeating- Romney and Rudy and Frederick of Hollywood and Torture McCain are fighting to win hearts and minds of right-wing evangelical Christians, proud Americans who want to elect a President just like the one we have now- a white man who won’t let silly obstacles like the law get in the way of the voice in his head that he thinks is telling him God’s will. One who will ignore the Establishment clause and shoehorn more religion into Federal government, so that they can force it onto the rest of us. That’s why the John F. Kennedy approach that TPM refers to won’t work. How far we’ve come in 40 years.
That’s the edge of the cliff. Take one more step with me.
This is the unspoken doom of Romney’s candidacy: all religions are not alike. The “Conservative voters” that TPM refers to in the article presumably also care a lot about which religion they’re going to impose on the rest of America. The preference seems to be for one of the sects (or heresies) of Christianity; whether it be Roman Catholic or Protestant or Baptist or Pentecostal or “born-again” or Evangelical or whatever seems to matter less than whether or not Jesus has an accepted role. Judaism is iffy. Presumably, in the minds of these people, the Bah’a’i Faith, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Scientology, and Wicca are not actual “religions.”
Even though Jesus has a place in it, Islam is right out.
The Constitution forbids any kind of “religious test” as a precondition for holding public office in the United States. Notwithstanding the actual law, it’s a sort of an electoral truism that in order to actually get into office, politicians must make a public demonstration that they belong to some kind of mainstream faith from the judeo-christian family of monotheism– except Islam, naturally. This profession of “faith” apparently functions as some kind of public-opinion shorthand for a test of the candidate’s “morals” or “values,” and to the extent that a candidate wants to impress voters who are concerned with either of those qualities, active membership in an “approved” religious community is the price of entry.
Based on the cool reception Mitt is getting, the Mormon faith must not be on the list.
I won’t speculate as to why the Mormons are not be a part of the cool kids club, except to note that according to Wikipedia, both the LDS church and modern Islam reject the Trinity. So maybe rejecting Mitt is purely a religious doctrinal conflict thing, rather than a “morals” or “values” thing. Although if that was the case, you would think that they could just acknowledge that nobody really wants two wives, agree to have Easter on different days or whatever and just get on with rebuilding our government in the model of a 14th-century theocracy.
It would be a great service to our national political discourse if we could address questions about a politician’s morals more directly, without resorting to oblique arguments about whether or not my candidate believes in the same Jesus that you do.