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"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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An Open Letter to George H.W. Bush

Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:34 am, August 22nd 2008     —    2 Comments »

August 18, 2008

The Honorable George H.W. Bush
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
1000 George Bush Drive West
College Station, TX 77845

Dear Mr. President:

Last December, it was our distinct pleasure to visit the magnificent library archiving and celebrating your service as the president of our great nation. The occasion was your hosting Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” speech. Your introduction of Gov. Romney was most gracious and his speech captured the very essence of what is great about the American vision of how religion and public life intersect.

Sadly, since that time, some involved in the current presidential election cycle have behaved, very publicly, in a fashion that represents some of our worst tendencies when we stand at that intersection. Of course our nation is full of groups with their own particular viewpoints, all vying for attention – and that is to be encouraged; it is an important part of America’s greatness.

Candidates for the highest office in the land, however,  must, as Gov. Romney said that day in your auditorium, rise above petty bickering to unite our nation.  To accomplish that, candidates must unite their political party, not tear it apart on religious, ethnic, or other grounds.

And yet, former presidential candidate and current FOX News commentator Mike Huckabee seems intent on creating such discord and disunity. His recent efforts to stand at the head of the “anybody but Romney for vice president” movement are simply offensive. His protests to the contrary notwithstanding, that movement and his energy on its behalf are so clearly based in religious bias, even bigotry, that they simply step outside the boundaries of legitimate presidential electoral debate and threaten our party’s unity.  Such behavior can only serve to cheapen our nation’s political discourse as it increasingly descends into the gutter.

This is more than mere conjecture.  Recent polling evidence, particularly that out of a Vanderbilt University study based on surveys conducted when both Huckabee and Romney were still active presidential candidates, clearly indicates that the very limited arguments Gov. Huckabee uses in his opposition to Gov. Romney play on traditional Christian prejudices concerning Mormons.  In many cases those arguments cases are simply “code” for “we cannot vote for him, he’s a Mormon.”

In 1908, William Howard Taft sought the presidency. Mr Taft was a Unitarian and he was opposed on religious grounds by William Jennings Bryan using tactics similar to those we are seeing Gov. Huckabee use against Gov. Romney today. The man leaving the presidency at that time, Theodore Roosevelt, felt it necessary the defy the convention of former presidents staying clear of the fray and to defend the right of every American, regardless of religion, to hold the highest office in the land. He did so in a series of now-famous letters to the various parties involved.

Today we write to you, as the senior Republican statesman in our nation, to ask you to take a similarly bold stand, to write such an important letter and to do so openly. Much has changed since the turn of the last century; our politics are conducted far more publicly than they once were. We ask that your letter be open and made available in the leading journals of this time.

This type of behavior we are seeing simply must be repudiated. You stand in a unique position to provide such repudiation. Gov. Huckabee must be made to understand that to continue to behave in this fashion will permanently disqualify him, and those he represents, from serious consideration for any leadership role in the Republican party ever again. Few people, if any, can speak for the entire party with as much wisdom, experience, and insight as you can.  You alone not only are beyond the battles of presidential politics, but also enjoy the moral authority coming from having won them.  You can help us keep our party, this nation and our electoral processes within the bounds of traditional American understanding and decency. We will be a much worse nation indeed if we break down into identity group bickering instead of uniting to elect the best people to govern us.

If we may be of any service to you in your efforts to fulfill our request, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and may God bless!

Sincerely,

Lowell Brown
Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Co-Author
Article VI Blog
http://www.article6blog.com
John Schroeder
evangelical Presbyterian, member of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
Co-Author
Article VI Blog
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