Will Religious Bigotry Factor into Romney's Chances In 2008 Presidential Campaign?

Massachusetts Governor, Willard Mitt Romney, who gained the attention of social conservatives by standing up to the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage, announced his candidacy for the GOP Presidential nomination on February 13, 2007.

However, while moderate by Republican standards, even receiving a mere C- rating from the NRA by signing a permanent ban on assault weapons in 2004, liberals will take exception to his standing on abortion and gay marriage where he stands firmly by his religious beliefs.

Romney has also taken a more conservative stand on Immigrants’ Rights going so far as to propose deputizing state troopers to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants in support of the Patriot Act’s intent to prevent terrorists from crossing our borders. In September 2005, he suggested that the FBI wiretap mosques and spy on new Muslim immigrants.

But despite that Washington pundits are currently flocking towards Romney who is best known as the man who single handedly saved the Salt Lake City Olympics, however, his ascendance to the throne may be compromised by his other than mainstream religious preference. Romney is a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and while other candidates may attempt to be politically correct by avoiding references to his religious beliefs evangelical churches that make up 30 percent of the Republican electorate will discourage members from voting for him. The problem is that Evangelicals do not have the same vague anti-LDS prejudice that some Americans do because for them it’s a doctrinal thing, based on very specific theological disputes that can’t be overcome by personality or charm or even shared positions on social issues. To evangelicals, Mormonism is a cult which means that they are somewhere between devil worshippers and Jim Jones and this prejudice was shown as recently as 2004, when Shirley Dobson (wife of James Dobson), specifically excluded them from participation in the National Day of Prayer because their theology was found to be incompatible with Christian beliefs. Sadly, however, this prejudice goes even deeper with persons like John L. Smith, a Southern Baptist who runs Utah Mission, telling Christianity Today that, “To be tolerant of Mormonism is to put evangelical Christianity at risk. And to put a Mormon in the White House would be to place a stamp of approval on that faith.”

However, this just goes to show that religious freedom is not a reality in America where latent evangelical concerns about Mormonism are just waiting to be exploited by those who oppose Romney’s nomination. Unfortunately, it is this bias that has caused conservatives to begin to worrying about Romney’s viability with a poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg showing that 35% of registered voters would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found.

Still, when it comes to managing the message about Romney’s relationship with his church, there might not be the necessary separation that is needed as was reported by the Boston Globe in October. The article stated that Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the church’s 12 apostles, had discussed the campaign at church headquarters with one of Romney’s sons as well as with a key Romney donor and a paid consultant to his political action committee. The Globe also reported that e-mails from two administrators of the business school at Brigham Young University, used office computers to solicit support for the campaign and even though B.Y.U.’s counsel told them to knock it off, Romney said it made sense to raise money from people he knows, including alumni.

As a result of these guffaws, Romney advisers are debating whether he will need to give a big speech in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, who told Protestant church leaders in Houston 46 years ago that he was “not the Catholic candidate for President” but instead he was “the Democratic Party’s candidate for President, who happens also to be Catholic.”

Perhaps of more concern to this reviewer is his stance on domestic wiretapping and habeas corpus verified by his refusal to sign a pledge not to conduct wiretapping on Americans or to imprison US citizens without trial thus suspending the writ of habeas corpus. After his refusal the conservative group, America for Freedom released a press release stating, “Conservatives Say Mitt Romney Unfit to Serve as President”. An additional negative, from my personal perspective, is his support for the use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the handling of suspects at the

Guantanamo Bay detention facility which came out during the Republican Presidential Debate in South Carolina, on May 15, 2007.

So will religious bigotry be Romney’s demise or will it be his stand on violating the rights of American Citizens? If it is because of his religious affiliations I say shame on you America but if it is because of his support for inflicting fear, terror, and trespass on American citizens then I say more power to the people.

[tags]Willard Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate, Mormon, Religious Bigotry, 2008 candidate for President, Freedom of Religion, enhanced interrogation procedures, wiretapping of citizens, Evangelical stance against Mormons[/tags]