Article VI Blog

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

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • The Left Makes Trouble, Prop 8 Backwash, General Presidential Politics and Stuff We Find Interesting

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:30 am, August 16th 2010     &mdash      4 Comments »

    The Left’s First Mormon Strike of 2012?

    …Could very well be this Salon piece.

    If you’re a resident of one of nine seemingly randomly selected mid-sized (mostly) non-coastal American cities, you’re the lucky audience for a new series of commercials advertising… Mormons. They are not quite explicitly ads for the Church of Latter-day Saints, they are just ads for Mormons, themselves. They are about how Mormons are regular people who enjoy things like surfing and riding motorcycles.


    Mormons, obviously, want to prove that they are regular people, just like us, and some of them are even cool, young, attractive people who ride skateboards.

    But… are Mormons just trying to convince Americans that Mormons are “normal,” so that in 2012 they’ll consider voting for Mormon King Mitt Romney? (These ads are running in four or five potential swing states, after all.)

    They do go on to report that the CJCLDS refutes the claim but as they say, the bell has rung.  There was reaction in The Washington Independent, a Pittsburgh TV station and the Mormon TimesEFM passed it on, and seemed to get in some hot water – please people do not be so sensitive – EFM are the good guys.

    I think we are beginning to see the Mormon meme developing as the left will likely deploy it.  Straight religious attack (“the founding whoppers of Mormonism”) is not going to play this time – it’s been delegitimized on both sides of the aisle.  However, with the passage of Prop 8 and the ensuing “blame the Mormons” cries that arose from the left, they have come to think of the CJCLDS as some sort of conspiratorial organization and the hidden hand of right wing forces.

    We have seen the “Mormon Mafia” pieces in the business pubs recently.  Dan Brown’s completely fictitious novels (The DaVinci Code) have produced images of religious institutions as conspiratorial organizations bent on promulgating deceit and cover ups.   Watch this space, “Mormons as bilderbergers” may be the meme of choice for 2012.

    And while we are on the subject, this letter to the SLTrib concerning moves in talk radio in the local market is not at all helpful:

    At a time when stellar and faithful Mormon Mitt Romney needs every ear, now is not the time to cancel his strong supporter, Sean Hannity.

    If you are Mormon, do not vote for Romney because he is Mormon, any more than an Evangelical should vote against him because he is a Mormon.  And if you do support him for the right reasons, saying that in a public forum is just not helpful.

    Prop 8 Ruling Continues to Roil…

    An emailer poses a hypothetical:

    …imagine this scenario: Judge Vaughn Walker is the proud father of seven children, grandfather of eight, happily married for 42 years and a former LDS stake president. He hears and carefully evaluates the same evidence presented in the trial and writes a 12 page opinion validating the will of the people. Do you think the media would dismiss his LDS and family views as inconsequential to the result, much as they have discounted Judge Vaughn’s homosexuality? I am convinced, given the well known impartiality of the media, that they would ignore his background.

    The emailer is, of course, being sarcastic.  And of course, it need not be a Mormon – if it were little ‘ol Presbyterian me, the point would hold just as well.  If the “shoe were on the other foot,” as it were, the media would have been all over the ruling like white on rice.  And the media is bad enough, but I am concerned legally about this.  Any right leaning judge with as much personally at stake in a case as Walker had in this one would have recused him (or her) self.  Walker’s ruling is, as best as I can tell, two things unprecedented in American national history:

    • a blatant attack on religion as a moral force in our nation by the power of government, and
    • an attempt to rule by straightforward fiat on a level easily comparable to our days as a colony.

    As reaction, I thought this piece by William McGurn was on point.

    The effect this will have on the forthcoming elections is difficult to measure.  Dan Balz seems to think the focus will remain on the economy.  Looks like Glenn Beck does too.  (So much for Mormon conspiracies!)

    Here’s my analysis – As an issue, same sex marriage is likely to stay on the back-burner.  However, the effect of this ruling will be highly significant in an indirect fashion.  There is enormous resentment building in this nation against the currently empowered left as they are moving too far, too fast, and doing so by force without the overwhelming consent of the governed.  Walker’s ruling is indeed the most strident, direct and effrontive of those moves.  People flat out will not stand for it.

    The next couple of election cycles are likely to transcend issues, they are going to be about tone, attitudes and the very definition of democracy.  Successful candidates are going to figure that out and ride that wave.  People that get too focused on issues are gong to miss the boat electorally.  The First Thoughts post I linked to above on Beck is trying to hammer Beck because they see abortion and marriage as the preeminent issues.  On the other end of the spectrum is our old pal Fred Karger who has finally attracted some big time political press.

    If Karger makes it on stage in those debates, he’ll join a line of single-issue candidates that have had some degree of success over the years.

    There will be no room for “single issue candidates” this time around.  There is too much at stake.  The very heart of what it is the be the United States of America is in play.

    Which brings me to…

    …2012 News

    I thought this MSNBC break down of the field was interesting:

    You can look at the emerging GOP 2012 field this way: the establishment (Romney, Barbour), the new faces (Pawlenty, Daniels, Thune), the evangelicals (Huckabee and Santorum), and the cable TV personas (Palin and Gingrich).

    There is a lot of sorting to do before this gets serious, but that is a taxonomy that might prove useful.  Some of those folks are going to the Iowa State fair, and some are not.  There is more strategy buried in who is and who is not than you might think.  Clearly Haley Barbour is making forays into Iowa, but is he dropping the forty pounds?  Romney and Palin are the clear leaders, but I still do not think Palin is going to run.

    There are some unsmart things happening.  Politico wonders in “offbeat” candidates are going to hurt Republicans this time around.  I do think the very high levels of resentment out there are going to result in some unusual choices.  The party is going to have to tread very lightly as it works its way through this minefield of resentment.  Not all the candidates Politico is attempting to cast as “offbeat” are that bad, and they are preferable to the Democrat mainstream, but it is going to be interesting.

    This is not offbeat, it’s stupid:

    An influential group of religious conservatives said Monday it would sit out the fall gubernatorial election as promised after candidates it favored lost in last week’s Republican primary.

    And thus the fallacies of “one issue” are revealed.  They don’t get what they want and so they don’t get anything at all.  In politics there are lots of battles, and as we have seen here, when we only fight a few, we lose the bigger picture.

    And in closing, let’s consider what our illustrious president said Friday evening concerning the ground zero mosque:

    This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.

    Let’s see how much he reminds his supporters of that should his 2012 opponent be a Mormon.


    Posted in Proposition 8, Reading List, Religious Freedom | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Monday Odds and Ends

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:57 am, August 9th 2010     &mdash      9 Comments »

    Fortune Telling…

    The new site on religion, Patheos, ran a series last week on the future of Evangelicalism.  Included therein was a sub-series on the political divides inside Evangelicalism.  Again confirming the wisdom of the strategy recently floated by the nascent Team Romney – you can’t court something as non-cohesive as Evangelicals, you can just let those that are on your side join the party.

    The Mormon organization FAIR held a conference recently.  One presented looked at what would happen if a Mormon were elected president:

    If the scenario were true, Watkins said, members of the media would scrutinize his tax returns and wonder why 10 percent went directly to his church. Devoting three or more hours to church meetings and other duties, home teaching and national coverage of Sister Johnson’s sacrament meeting talk might turn some heads. General conference would be a major media event. Attending the temple would become complicated.

    And think of the possible political satire. “Saturday Night Live” would have a field day.

    Dear friends, if that is all that happens – consider it a blessing.  Any person of faith is considered an “oddity” in this age and EVERYONE is made fun of on Saturday Night Live, usually distastefully.  I am far more concerned about mining Mormonism for political ammunition.

    But this is the 2012 meme that I am seeing and hearing more and more of and find disturbing:

    Our fear must be that through the 2012 primaries and caucuses, the winnowing process will bring the GOP back to its boring, staid old self – and thus turn off the Tea Party fervor which is the hottest political movement in decades.

    What we should be looking for in our 2012 candidate is a conservative who can sell conservatism – and also attract middle-of-the-road independents – all the while being pleasantly on the attack against the liberals, using humor and a light touch to harness the underlying fear and anxiety we are all feeling about our country’s future.

    The current administration is evidence of what happens when a party goes for pizazz over substance.  Ronald Reagan was an extraordinary human being in his capability to both sell conservatism AND administer the nation, but he would have been an abject failure if all he could do was sell conservatism.  The first qualification to run for president is not the ability to “sell conservatism” – it’s the ability to actually run the executive branch of government.  2012 is going to be the “get serious” election and we have some candidates that are very good at getting serious.

    Sitting around an pining for something better is a sure path to losing.  Just look at the last election.

    The Field…

    The Christian Science Monitor surveys the field.  They seem to be thinking star power more than serious capability.  That’s a mistake.

    But this New York magazine article just cracked me up:

    It’s not exactly groundbreaking news, but according to an MIT study, a candidate’s aesthetic appeal holds a lot of sway with voters. In short, respondents from the United States, Mexico, and India pretty much agreed with each other about which candidates “would make a better elected official” just by looking at photos of them. And the candidates they picked were often the ones that actually got elected.

    [S]imply knowing which candidate the participants judged to have a superior appearance allowed the researchers to correctly predict the winner in 68 percent of Mexican elections and 75 percent of some Brazilian elections.

    Luckily for John Thune and his chiseled face, he will probably have the “superior appearance” in whatever race he runs in.

    Wait?! – I thought Romney was the one with the “chiseled good looks?”  Has our nation really turned so superficial that we will vote for the “it” president?  Are we so superficial that handsome today is “old and ugly” tomorrow, not just in our Hollywood starlets, but our presidential candidate?  Well, on the left maybe…

    The Meme To Watch For…

    Remember that story we ran into a few weeks ago about Mormons in financial institutions?  Well, if this piece out of the UK is any indication, a meme is forming:

    They are nicknamed The mormon mafia. Its followers are taking over the corridors of power on Wall street, heading companies in the Forbes 500 and have already made a bid for the White House. “You’ll find mormons in many board-rooms wielding influence and shaping society,” says one leading  mormon businessman. “We’re trained for success.”

    Last cycles antics have made the “cult” charge unusable this go around so it look like they are going to use “conspiracy theory” this time.  Watch this space.

    …Or not

    Chris Cillizza this social issues will make a comeback, particularly in light of last week’s judicial ruling on Prop 8.  First of all, they never have been quite as dead as some would like to think, but that said, he’s wrong.  This stuff does not hit national until the Supremes rule.

    Finally, ugliness…

    Here and here.  It takes smart serious people to do religion and politics.  These are not them.

    Lowell adds . . .

    I am sorry to have been so absent from the blog lately. Vacation plans called, followed by a severe and unexpected attack of employment.

    The FAIR conference speaker’s comments on the impact of a Mormon president reminded me of a concern raised on Al Mohler’s radio program back in the 2008 presidential cycle.  Mohler had two guests on his show and one of them expressed a fear about Romney (or any Mormon) winning the White House:  That a Mormon president would “mainstream” Mormonism.  That fear creates what Mohler called a issue of “Christian discipleship” for him:  Could he vote for a Mormon if he knew that the religion may consequently become more attractive to possible converts, causing them to be deceived and to lose their salvation?

    I am not raising this to make fun of Mohler.  I do not doubt his sincerity or that of his guest, although I think they are both terribly wrong-headed about the matter.  If the FAIR speaker is right (and he probably is, largely), then people will indeed learn a lot about Mormonism if Romney is even nominated, much less elected.  I recall the 1976 election, when Jimmy Carter’s nomination led to a great deal of news media coverage of what were then called “born-again Christians” (now known more precisely as Evangelicals).  I don’t know what direction the Evangelical response will take if there is similar attention paid to Mormonism, but it will be important, both in the GOP primaries and in the general election.  As John said, watch this space!


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    Weekend Discussion: Boiling Points and Lincolnian Darkness

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:10 am, August 6th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Peggy Noonan pens an insightful piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning at the end of a week when our government has crammed enormous amounts of nonsense down our throats against our will:

    The biggest political change in my lifetime is that Americans no longer assume that their children will have it better than they did. This is a huge break with the past, with assumptions and traditions that shaped us.

    The country I was born into was a country that had existed steadily, for almost two centuries, as a nation in which everyone thought—wherever they were from, whatever their circumstances—that their children would have better lives than they did. That was what kept people pulling their boots on in the morning after the first weary pause: My kids will have it better. They’ll be richer or more educated, they’ll have a better job or a better house, they’ll take a step up in terms of rank, class or status. America always claimed to be, and meant to be, a nation that made little of class. But America is human. “The richest family in town,” they said, admiringly. Read Booth Tarkington on turn-of-the-last-century Indiana. It’s all about trying to rise.


    When the adults of a great nation feel long-term pessimism, it only makes matters worse when those in authority take actions that reveal their detachment from the concerns—even from the essential nature—of their fellow citizens. And it makes those citizens feel powerless.

    Inner pessimism and powerlessness: That is a dangerous combination.

    Th whole piece is fascinating, you should read the whole thing.  It set me wondering if the huge increase in people staying with their parents well past the age where my generation did is not evidence of same.  Frankly, I don’t blame the kids, but I have always wondered why the parents make it so easy on them.  But this piece I think explains it – parents no longer think they are releasing their kids into something good.  The parents no longer have faith that if they let the kids go, the failure will be small and the success big.  Hence the kids stay in the basement and play video games well into their 20′s and even their 30′s.

    But here is the real insight that I had while reading this – government has never been the source of hope in this nation – the lack of it has.  More specifically the freedom of religion that we have enjoyed has provided hope unlike any other place on earth or time in history.  There is nothing I know of that can provide hope in people save a sense that there is an Almighty in control.  Part of the great American civic religion is that while we disagree on the specifics of the Almighty, we know there is one and that He has our destiny well in hand.

    And yet, we live in an age when our courts tell us that religion causes harm.  We live in an age where expressions of that hope when rooted in the Almighty are forbidden from public view.  And worst of all, those of us that share a sense of a benevolent and hope-inducing Almighty turn on each other in our civil debates because in the pessimism and powerlessness that we feel, we feel that we must fight someone – and in doing so we only make the situation worse.

    Moreover, in the pessimism and powerlessness we feel, religious people turn to government for hope rather than realizing that we hold the solution in our own hands.  Rather than build a soup kitchen, we lobby for more food stamps.   Rather than build a shelter, we lobby for “affordable housing” laws.  Rather than spread the hope that our faith should give us, we wallow in our hopelessness.

    But I am not yet ready to abandon my hope, for I cling tightly to the Almighty as I understand Him – and I hope you do to.  The road back to a hope filled nation is not straight, short nor simple.  It involves reforming both government and religion.  I know it starts by uniting in our hopefulness despite our differences in understanding that hope’s source.  I know that someday we will have to resolve those differences, but today is not that day.  Today we fight together for a nation where we can resolve those differences rather than have them resolved for us.

    What say you?  Comment moderation is off for the weekend.

    Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for his link and comments on the same article.


    Posted in Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    About That Prop 8 Decision…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:27 pm, August 4th 2010     &mdash      13 Comments »

    …time and employment have not permitted Lowell or I to review the decision in detail.  To that caveat I will also add that I am neither a lawyer nor a legal scholar, so any review I might do of the ruling will be limited.  However, that said my eye was drawn by a quick document search for the word “religion” to the following.  On the question:


    The judge found:

    77.  Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.

    That is extraordinary.  There is nothing neutral in a legal ruling that religion does harm.  It is particularly extraordinary when across the continent in New York City officials seem to be bending over backwards to distinguish between religion and the idiots within the religion that caused more than “harm,” they caused the death of thousands of Americans, and their business associates from around the world.

    It also ignores the fundamental belief of virtually all persons of faith that all people are guilty of sin.  That being true there is virtually no step from this ruling and having to ban religion altogether as discriminatory towards everyone because the religion holds that everyone has sinned and is therefore harmed..

    It is also interesting to note that the finding implies that calling a homosexual relationship sinful is a “private moral view” but that saying it is not sinful is an amoral statement.  The fact of the matter is that the question is inherently moral.  It is equally demonstrable that forcing me to view a homosexual commitment ceremony causes me harm for I certainly hold my religious identity as dear as any homosexual holds their sexual identity.

    The ruling, as so many have said is unsurprising.  It also appears to me untrained eye to be the worst case of judicial abuse of power in our nation’s history.  Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff said:

    …Judge Walker’s decision is the fruit of a lengthy process through which an elite within the legal profession has worked tirelessly in an effort to blur, hopelessly, the distinction between the law and personal preferences of that elite. If the decision stands, its main impact will be a diminution, probably past the tipping point, of public confidence in the law and the courts.

    That’s a pretty good summation. But I fear the ramifications will be even broader in the long run.  This decision as written appears, again to my untrained eye, to severely erode the legitimate position of religion in our greater public discourse.  If we no longer trust the law and courts and religion is delegitimized as a source of moral authority in the nation – only chaos can ensue.  Such has brought down empires.

    Are we to go the way of the ancient Roman Empire?


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    Oxymoron Alert!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:48 am, August 4th 2010     &mdash      1 Comment »

    It seems to be “Mormons  and the Presidency” week in the Utah press – likely because Huntsman is sniffing about.  It started with the Deseret News piece we examined Monday.   SLC TV station KSL followed up by talking to some actual experts on the subject that were pretty smart.  But SLTrib blogger Glen Warchol really takes the cake.  In our analysis Monday we drew a comparison between Romney and Huntsman and their approaches to religion.   Our case was that Huntsman was running away from his faith and Romney had never wavered.

    The SLTrib’s opposition to Mormonism in general and Romney in particular is no secret. Peggy Fletcher Stack’s work for that paper is exceptional in its coverage of Mormonism and she appears truly neutral on the candidates, but she also appears token at the paper.  So it is unsurprising that their blogger would try to spin the story, but some things are just ridiculous:

    The 2012 presidential election’s wandering in the wilderness has begun in earnest and Utah has two potential candidates in high weeds wrestling with a special challenge — they’re Mormons. But Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. are taking different approaches to downplay their long, proud Mormon heritages.

    According to the Deseret News, Mitt Romney, who was slammed by conservative Christians despite his openness in explaining his religious beliefs, is going to duck the question and hope for the best.

    Romney is going to “downplay” and “duck” “despite his openness?”  Can anyone figure that out for me?  Here’s my best guess – pure political spin.  Warchol is hoping that you will walk away with the words “downplay” and “duck” stuck in your mind and that will form your opinion of Romney instead of the actual facts, which by his oxymoronic formulation he can claim he has reported.  That’s spin at its finest (worst?).

    Being a blog post, partisanship is expected, even when paper branded, so we cannot really bust his chops for media bias here, but spin is simply abominable.   If you oppose someone, you should have the honesty to simply do so straightforwardly and directly.  And the backhanded use of religion as the attack weapon of choice, well…let’s call it “Huckesque” and leave it at that.


    Posted in News Media Bias, Political Strategy | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Why What We Discuss Matters, Utah News, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:38 am, August 2nd 2010     &mdash      4 Comments »

    Never Underestimate How The Other Side Will Cause Trouble…

    Remember, our primary thesis at this point is that our opponents, the Left and Democrats, will be the primary players of the religion card this forthcoming cycle.  They do so because, thanks to Mike Huckabee, we divided ourselves last time allowing them to elect Obama.  They will use any tool and any means to drive the wedge in us.  Never has it been more evident than it was last week.

    On Thursday, Mark Kirkorian put up a post at the Corner that, while it made some excellent points, did so rather intemperately.  The issue was birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens.  Less than a day later, Eric Kleefeld put up something at the excruciatingly left “Talking Points Memo,” delineating a list of Republicans that had proposed something on the subject in the past.  Number 5 on his list was Mitt Romney, about whom he wrote:

    The funny thing here of course is that Romney’s own family has its links to Mexico — his father George Romney was born there, as part of a Mormon colony founded by polygamists. (George Romney’s own parents were monogamists.) Interestingly enough, George Romney’s U.S. citizenship was taken for granted when the family moved to the United States when he was a child, and he later was elected governor of Michigan and even ran for president in 1968 — an office that of course has the much higher bar of “natural born citizen” that the birthers often talk so much about.

    Not only did he manage to play the religion card in a story where it has no reasonable connection, but he managed to bring up polygamy with it!  Problem is, Kirkorian created the window for Kleefeld to do this.  Of course, that does no mean we have to squelch out own internal debate, but it does mean we need to use some common sense about how we have our internal debate.

    The intemperance with which Kirkorian made his points served as signal to the other side that they were presented with a place where driving a wedge might be effective, and sense they believe from the last election that the religion wedge is also effective, they will work hard to work it in.  We have got to find a way to disagree and debate that does not create the appearance of such weak points.

    And the sarcasm of the left is just intolerable, why set ourselves up for it.  And the Canadians seem to work in one of those out-of-the-blue Mormon references we have not seen in ages.  Although sometimes the left makes sense – Like this guy at Salon that has sized up Newt Gingrich pretty well:

    …Newt Gingrich, whose flirtation with the Oval Office began anew this month when he declared in Iowa, “I’ve never been this serious [about a White House bid].”

    But do not be fooled: “This serious” isn’t that serious. Like Stevenson, Newt Gingrich isn’t running for president (though he’ll go along with an “if-you-must-have-me” nomination, if they’re offering). What Gingrich is going for is something closer to running for ex-president.

    It’s a campaign to be treated like that of the elder statesman he sees every time he looks into the mirror, to retain the dignitary-behind-the-closed-door lifestyle. Whether for his personal or professional failings, Newt never secured the permanence in stature afforded to former heads of state and Washington giants, the lasting transition from middle-aged gray hair to senior citizen graybeard. And he wants it. Desperately.

    And speaking of Huck - this made me chuckle a bit – which is just about the only way I want to speak of the Huckster.

    Meanwhile in Utah…

    The CJCLDS discusses online proselytizing.  For what my opinion is worth on the subject, which is not much my not being Mormon and all, such has not worked well for Evangelicals – I think it sort of sends the wrong message about what a religion is and does.  But more, the last thing I thinks Mormons should do, if they are concerned about Romney’s potential candidacy is raise the proselytizing profile – it will make it appear that his run is really juts to aid the church (see section above – DO NOT put it past the left to work very hard to drive just such a story home)

    However, on the other hand, this Deseret News story on Romney and Huntsman makes Huntsman seem dishonorable to me:

    In a recent Fortune magazine interview that appeared on, his Mormon credentials were described as “soft,” unlike his more devout family. His father, Jon Huntsman Sr., is an Area Seventy in the LDS Church.

    The former governor noted in the interview that his children attend Catholic schools, and his adopted daughters come from different religious cultures, one Buddhist, the other Hindu.

    “I can’t say I am overly religious,” Huntsman is quoted as saying in the interview, which refers to his consideration of a 2012 run. “I get satisfaction from many different types of religions and philosophies.”

    I have no idea of Huntsman is a “Jack Mormon” or what – but to run away from one’s professed faith like that indicates to me someone that lacks principles.  That’s the amazing thing about all the stuff that was hurled at Romney last time about flip-flop, etc.  He stood on his core beliefs – his faith – when denying it would have benefited him greatly, far more than any change of position of one issue or the other.   Nancy at EFM seems to note the same thing.  And Ben Smith at Politco fund Huntsman’s religious bet hedging worthy of passing on.

    Silly People…

    …abound.  This one makes no sense to me.  This one is just ugly and makes me really unappreciative of the “pay for play” publication sites.  Particularly in an age when getting noticed is not that hard.

    Ross Douthat illustrates that he is not exactly in the Romney camp.

    And the Anchoress makes the point that the left is very willing to use the silly among us to pain all of us.  *SIGH*  Sometimes I am deeply embarrassed by my coreligionists.


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