Mormons Speak Out

Welcome back!  Hope everyone’s Christmas was very merry.

Just wanted to put up a few interesting links that may show the beginning of a trend: Mormons getting sick of being everyone’s favorite punching bag.

First, Mormon quiz show phenom Ken Jennings op-eds in the NY Daily News.  Headline: “Politicians and Pundits, Please Stop Slandering My Mormon Faith.”  He follows up with a punchy and persuasive case supporting his request.

Second, Mormon journalist Joel Campbell writes in the Publisher and Editor, taking note of the imbalance of reporting about Mormonism in the media.  One nice example he highlights is Maureen Dowd’s sole reliance for information about Mormonism on noted Mormon-basher Jon Krakauer.  Campbell appears to be starting a blog on the subject.  Developing . . .

Third, Mormon law professor (and religious blogger) Kaimi Wenger enters the fray with a thoughtful response to Lawrence O’Donnell.  You may remember O’Donnell for his off-the-handle rant  about Mormons on the McLaughlin Group.  What you may not know is that O’Donnell not only stands by those remarks, but followed them up with what appears to be a sincere attempt to substantiate them, a very lengthy column on the Huffington Post.  Professor Wenger shows that O’Donnell’s reliance on hundred year old isolated quotations from Mormon leaders says nothing at all about Mormons in 2007, leastwise Mitt Romney.  Wenger also has a nice write up on his Mormon-focused blog regarding some of the questions coming up about Mormons and Racial issues.

All in all, I do think this constitutes a trend, and I think it’s only the beginning.  As Mormons continue to feel spat upon by evangelicals, leftist secularists, and journalists-with-an-agenda, they’re speaking up and defending themselves.  This is not exactly a sleeping giant, but there is a huge number of intelligent, articulate, even influential Mormons out there, and once provoked, they could have a real impact on the current public debate about the place of Mormonism in America.  Welcome to the fray, everyone.

Mona Charen: Mormon Church Produces “Excellent Americans”

I hate to write many posts that just link to other stories, without adding any substance myself.  But the rigors of the close of the billable year call me to other pursuits at the moment.  Nevertheless, you won’t regret reading this article by Mona Charen.  She sounds many notes we’ve heard before, but her framework is new.  Isn’t it true that every election year, we see people wondering why our crop of candidates is so pathetic, when there are so many successful, competent people in America?  Anyone saying that this year clearly hasn’t thought hard enough about Mitt Romney, who perfectly fits the bill:

The question as to whether someone’s religious convictions are a fit subject for public scrutiny is not as simple as it sounds. It’s too pat to say, “There should be no religious test for public office and there’s the end of it.” If a candidate were, say, a fundamentalist Mormon like Warren Jeffs, or a Scientologist, that would be an obstacle. But the mainstream Mormon Church has enough of a track record in producing excellent Americans that the particularities of its doctrine are by now a matter of purely scholarly interest.

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When Mitt Romney took office as governor of Massachusetts, the state had a $1.2 billion deficit. Four years later it was in surplus. He boasts that fourth and eighth graders in Massachusetts achieved the highest scores in the nation in reading and math, though they were doing so before he became governor as well. But his program of assessment, merit pay for good teachers, English immersion and a focus on math and science may have helped keep them at the top.

It is difficult to find any significant weakness in Romney. He is refreshingly articulate, exceedingly well prepared and self-disciplined, clearly an excellent manager with both private and government experience, happily married with a large, supportive family, and well within the mainstream of conservatism on every major issue. His nomination would not divide the base.

He is just the sort of candidate people complain that they never get.

Read the whole thing.  And have a good weekend, everyone.

Michael Novak on Religious Discrimination in Presidential Politics

Overshadowed by the endorsement by the National Review editorial board was Michael Novak’s endorsement of Governor Romney. Novak wrote a post detailing his reasons for supporting Romney, much of which have to do with sticking up for a victim of discrimination for his faith:

National Review beat me to it, alas, but I have been deciding to come out publicly for Mitt Romney for some days now. I have been supporting him privately for weeks, though I was trying to avoid supporting anybody publicly.

But the attacks upon Romney’s religion have been a last straw. They are just not fair. I remember his father’s campaigns and what an upright man he was — and no one even breathed a word against him because of his religion.

In addition, every one of the Mormons I have ever worked with, beginning with a great graduate assistant for one of my classes at Stanford in about 1967, have been the most well-mannered, inquisitive, competent, kind and thoughtful people I know. Arch Madsen of Bonneville Broadcasting, with whom I served on the Board of International Broadcast for many years, Joe Cannon who was on the AEI Board, Senator Orrin Hatch, and a long list of others always lifted my spirits.

One of my favorite texts from the New Testament is “By their fruits you shall know them.” That verse has taught me to look for persons who actually love God, not so much by the churches they attend or what they say they believe, but by how they and their families live their lives. Over two public generations now, the Romney family has given us examples of upright, decent, warm lives, given to public commitment even though they did not have to be.

These days, though, it has become imperative for some Christians to come out publicly for Mitt, now that his religion has come under unfair attack. I am no expert on Mormon theology, but I do profoundly admire the good family life and good individuals it keeps sending forth into the world. Those are signs I read clearly.

 

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In any case, that’s the last straw. Someone has to protest, in the name of Christianity itself, that spreading bigotry and hatred for the sake of winning a political campaign is wrong. I for one don’t want to let this issue of bigotry and suspicion pass by without protest — and without open support for its victim. The least Americans can do is speak up for each other on matters of religious liberty.

Romney is a good, executive-keen man, and without this mud he would earn the respect and love of the American people on his own.

 

These thoughts stirred another response at NRO’s the Corner as well, this from Mike Potemra:

I want to second something Michael Novak said. In my decades’ worth of meeting people from many different religious backgrounds, I have found that in every faith tradition-Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, what have you-there is roughly the same proportion of nice people and jerks. To this rule there is one conspicuous exception: Mormons. I have yet to meet a single Mormon who has been a jerk-and I have met many LDS believers. As someone who grew up in Rudy Giuliani’s faith, and is now somewhere between Mike Huckabee’s and John McCain’s, I find Mitt Romney’s religious background a factor that makes me more, rather than less, likely to vote for him.

Nice to see a few people willing to stand up and defend Romney and his faith.

 

Anti-Mormon Gloves Coming Off

Martin Frost, writing on FoxNews.com, made an invitation to his readers. He asked them to write him expressing their feelings regarding voting for a Mormon. Mr. Frost says the majority of his more than 400 respondents expressed a hope that people could get past that issue and vote for candidates on the merits. This is encouraging. But Mr. Frost, who purports to belong to that same camp, didn’t print any of those emails. Instead, he chose to publish thirteen of the most vitriolic pieces of bigotry you’re likely to ever see in a national news medium. This is pathetic.

Let’s review a few of these emails, and remember- the topic is not the truthfulness of the LDS Church, its theology or practice, the salutary effect it has on members’ lives, or any other such religious question. The topic is whether a person is comfortable voting for Mitt Romney in light of his Mormon faith. Here’s a rule of thumb: If someone asks you if you can vote for Hillary Clinton, and your response focuses more on “women” than “Hillary,” you’re a bigot. Keeping that same principle in mind, let’s look at a few of the cuddly reader responses: (more…)

Defenses

It’s been a while ago now, but we’ve added to our features a list of strong defenses of Mitt Romney published in the national press, seen at the bottom of this page.  By defenses, I don’t mean people advocating for Mitt Romney on the basis of his religion.  Rather, these are articles speaking out against judging Romney based solely on his religion, and advocating greater tolerance regarding such things.  Strong editorials by John Fund and Jeff Jacoby anchor that list so far.

And it’s a good day to point to the defense section, because it will gain two new, and very good, entries today.

The first is this wise column that appeared in the Denver Post a few days ago, by recent college graduate Chris Rawlings. Rawlings laments the opportunity for serious coverage of Romney’s candidacy that his hometown paper lost when it punctuated Romney’s visit to Colorado with a three page article detailing the various peculiar points of Mormon belief and history.  He states in closing that if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, “it will neither be in spite of, nor because of, his Mormon faith.”  Just as it should be.

The second is this Washington Post editorial by Michael Gerson.  Gerson’s categorization of religious beliefs is quite helpful in evaluating what kinds of faith-based truths can and should affect policy decisions.  He draws a line between soteriology (beliefs about how souls gain salvation) and eschatology (beliefs about how the world will end) on the one hand, and anthropology (beliefs about the nature and value of human life) on the other.  While he places the former two categories out of bounds, as have nearly all American politicians, he believes that the latter category is ripe with possibility for influencing public dialogue in a good way.  Lest any critics find this claim too sweeping or ominous, Gerson correctly points out that religious beliefs about humanity and its dignity have driven a huge part of the progress toward equality that is already in our history.  This is undoubtedly true.

It’s nice to see  a bit of enlightenment being spread around, especially in a week that was also notable for its bigotry.  We will bring other defenses to your attention as we see them.