We’ve mentioned Gary Glenn several times on this blog. Gary runs Michigan’s American Family Association. I’d characterize our disagreements with Gary as profound, but friendly — not an easy balance to strike.
We received an e-mail from Gary this week. Gary’s a thoughtful man with strong opinions; we disagree with him, of course, but are posting his e-mail here in its entirety. Gary’s comments provide a fine opportunity to put into sharp relief some key issues surrounding The Question. Here’s our “Point/Counter-Point” exchange:
Gentlemen, there is no surer sign of your own kneejerk prejudice and bigotry than your continued insistence that the only possible motivation for anyone opposing Mitt Romney must have something to do with his religion. Aside from the fact that he could spend $10 million on a race for dogcatcher, if Romney ran for office in Utah or Idaho or Arizona, odds are he’d be running against fellow LDS Church members in the Republican primary, and with his pro-abortion on demand, pro-homosexual agenda record, and his ongoing opposition to the Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexuals and his current support for state “gay rights” laws, he’d get his butt kicked by a fellow Mormon who really is a conservative. Who would you falsely accuse of religious bigotry then?
Article VI: Gary, I admire your passion, but we have never even suggested that “the only possible motivation for anyone opposing Mitt Romney must have something to do with his religion.” Where on earth are you getting that? You’re not sensitive about this issue, are you?
Also, although we have tried to avoid getting deeply into political issues on this blog, I’ll just say that your statement that Romney has a “pro-abortion on demand, pro-homosexual agenda record, and . . . ongoing opposition to the Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexuals and . . . [that he currently supports] state ‘gay rights’ laws” is, well, debatable. I think you’d have to squint pretty hard at Romney’s record as Governor of Massachusetts to find him taking those positions. I’ll also say that after the 2002 Olympics, if Romney had chosen to run for Governor of Utah, he’d be sitting in that State’s Governor’s Mansion right now. And everybody, including Utah’s current Governor, Jon Huntsman Jr., knows it.
Note: I’d be managing or consulting that other LDS candidate’s campaign — the real pro-life, pro-family values kind — as I have about three dozen times over the last 30 years. In 1980, for example, I managed the campaign of an LDS Realtor, who’ll be staying at my home in May when he comes to see his son-in-law graduate from Ann Arbor, who unseated an incumbent state legislator in the GOP primary who was a Nazarene minister. By your pitifully overwrought standards, that would make me . . . anti-Nazarene too. Right?
Article VI: No, it wouldn’t. As we have stated on this blog since Day 1, we don’t think a candidate’s religion should matter, except in the most extreme circumstances. We like the three-point test advanced by John Mark Reynolds in August 2006:
First, the religious beliefs of the candidate should be held by a significant number of people and by a group willing to defend them (even if unsuccessfully) in a rational manner.
Second, the group in question should not have religious claims that will naturally lead to horrific, or at least far out, public policy.
Third, the group should have a long track record of generally playing by republican rules in areas where it is dominant. No group is perfect, but the Presidency is too powerful a prize to trust to a new group that might have secret authoritarian leanings.
Professor Reynolds concludes, and we agree, that Mormonism passes all three tests easily. I assume, based on your constant reminders to us that you have supported many Mormon candidates, that you also agree. So no, we do
not believe that merely supporting one candidate means you are against the opposing candidate because of his religion. But you knew that, didn’t you?
BTW, based on poll data showing Huckabee leading among young people but losing among senior citizens, I also sent out an e-mail urging Huckabee literature drops on college campuses but (gasp!) not at senior citizen centers. Obvious evidence of “ageism” and bigotry toward older folks, right?
Article VI: I think you’ve made your point, but there isn’t much left of it now. See my response above.
You can keep up this scurrilous — but frankly, both amusing and pitiful — business of suggesting that anyone who didn’t support Mitt Romney is a religious bigot. But that’s a reflection of your character, not those you falsely accuse. (Notably, the Romney campaign and supporters are the only ones guilty of this. When McCain is criticized for opposing a Marriage Protection Amendment, he doesn’t whine that it’s because he’s an Episcopalian-turned-Baptist. When Rudy was criticized for supporting abortion on demand, his supporters didn’t accuse his critics of being “anti-Catholic.”)
Article VI: Gary, for the record, I have no reason to believe you are a religious bigot. I think you are a deeply committed conservative “family values” activist. I also think there is evidence that you are willing to use divisive religious identity politics to achieve your ends, as you attempted (with little effect) in Michigan. I think that’s wrong. You’re not evil, you’re not a bigot, you’re just profoundly wrong, and I think your tactics are repulsive and un-American. You may not believe me, but I do separate the sin from the sinner.
John interjects: To make the record clear, I, not Lowell, did specifically use the word “bigot” in referring to Mr. Glenn. I did so based on his overtly religiously discriminatory appeal, as Lowell references in the preceding paragraph. I admit it is a strong word, and its use in this particular discussion is a gray area. However, given the Vanderbilt study (Lowell cites it again below) and the nature of Mr. Glenn’s charges regarding Mitt Romney, specifically “lacking in character and conviction and truth-telling,” which the Vanderbilt study reveals is often “code” for anti-Mormons, the burden of proof lies with Mr. Glenn. I find the arguments he offers in this email unconvincing, particularly given the level of rhetoric he uses to make them.
On the other hand, you could accept the facts. That Romney was a flawed candidate widely rejected because he was perceived to be lacking in character and conviction and truth-telling, who spent $100 million and couldn’t win any primary outside his three “home” states of Michigan, Utah, and Massachusetts. Who outside of those states, in the places where he spent the most time, where people got to know him best up close and personal — Iowa, NH, and SC — he lost.
Article VI: Well, he wasn’t “widely rejected.” But enough primary voters voted for Huckabee based on Romney’s religion to deny Mitt some wins he clearly would have had otherwise. Some of those voters were bigots, but probably just as many were voting for Huck merely because they identified with him. Some probably were simply uninformed about Mormonism or had bought into lies or distortions told to them by bigots. You exploit those mostly benighted attitudes and behavior for political ends, and that’s my real objection to your work this year. (By the way, I haven’t seen you denouncing a single one of the despicable attacks directed at Romney. How do you feel about Bill Keller, for example?)
Moreover, I sure would like to see you, or someone on your side of the issue, respond to the Vanderbilt study that made this conclusion:
“We find that of those who accuse Romney of flip-flopping, many admit it is Romney’s Mormonism and not his flip-flopping that is the real issue,” Benson said. “Our survey shows that 26 percent of those who accuse Romney of flip-flopping also indicate that Mormonism, not flip-flopping, is their problem with Romney.” Benson noted that the pattern is especially strong for conservative Evangelicals. According to the poll, 57 percent of them have a bias against Mormons.
Doesn’t that make you just a bit uncomfortable about the religious sentiment on which you have been capitalizing on Huckabee’s behalf?
It is understandably easier and more convenient — and I’m sure it feels much better too — to insist that your man lost not because of his own character flaws, but because of someone else’s. Rather than cling to that feel-good delusion, hope you can come to grips some day with reality and stop falsely maligning other folks.
Article VI: Well, Gary, we feel a little “falsely maligned” ourselves when you claim we think everyone who voted against Romney is a bigot. You don’t really believe that, do you?
Enough said . . . back to work. For example, I’m helping folks organizing a reenactment of the Mormon Battalion Trek (overland march in the early 1800′s to join the Mexican War) identify possible donors. Which only “proves” in your eyes, no doubt, that I must be “anti-Mexican” too.
Your “old friend” Gary Glenn
Article VI: Thanks, Gary. Although you seem to be saying “Some of my best friends are Mormons,” I really, truly do not think you are a bigot. I do think you make common cause with them, wittingly or not. I wish you’d address that question, rather than accuse us of holding a position that we have never taken.
UPDATE: Gary has addtional responses to this post in the comments below. You’ll notice, as you read them, that Gary does not respond to my question:
By the way, I haven’t seen you denouncing a single one of the despicable attacks directed at Romney. How do you feel about Bill Keller, for example?)
Why won’t Gary denounce such clearly atrocious behavior? Why won’t his candidate, Mike Huckabee, denounce it? Is it because they fear alienating the bigots they know are included within their constituency?