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."

  • Examing The Question From Yet Another Angle – Analyzing Florida

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:52 pm, January 31st 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    Well the results are in and Romney wins Florida, and ALL her delegates, big time.

    What a 10 days this has been.  It started with with both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum receiving heinously anti-Mormon introductory comments at speeches.  It ended with Newt Gingrich saying that Mitt Romney had no understanding of religious liberty or conscious, and revelations that Sarah Palin manages her Facebook page in a blatantly anti-Mormon fashion.  WOW!

    And yet, with all that religious bile spilled, Romney won going away.  Well that is except among Evangelicals.  According to USAToday exit polling Romney barely edged out Gingrich among those that professed to be “a born-again or evangelical Christian” 38% to 37%.  In the words of the immortal Mr. Spock, “Fascinating Captain.”  Another curious fact is that Jews comprised a mere 1% of the Republican electorate today.  Michael Medved tweeted:

    “Koshergate” apparently backfired-absurd Gingrich claim that Mitt denied kosher food to Holocaust survivors!

    Medved claimed on a Hugh Hewitt radio interview that “Koshergate” is what kept Jewish Republicans home.  This may account for why noted leftie Frank Rich claims:

    Rich added, “It’s almost as if he’s closeted about his religion and I think that makes him seem fake.”

    People are not truning out because of the religious incivility, so if you’re a leftie – keep ‘em home.

    When I went looking for a video of Gingrich’s abysmal post-result speech, I found it here and noted this in the comments:

    How Glenn Beck can NOT say that Romney is a progressive is beyond me It must be that Mormon brother hood

    So, here’s what we really know.  Evangelical heavy South Carolina has a clear distaste for a Mormon candidate.  Exit polls and reports from GOTV callers seem to back this up.  Evangelicals in Florida don’t care for him much either, but given the much more diverse nature of Florida they don’t matter.  Most importantly, Florida looks a lot more like the nation as a whole than South Carolina does.

    Everyone seems to think these results are determinative, even if the primary race is not over.  So, let’s presume Romney will win the nomination and ask if the religion question can still hurt us if it is played heavily in the primary, as it has been to date.  The answer seems to be that it clearly can.  Amongst all but the Evangelicals, the religion issue seems to have become distasteful.  Amongst Jews, who would have a particularly sensitive set of feelers to religious discrimination, it appears to be driving them away in droves.

    Thus the real danger presented by Gingrich’s continued presence in the race, particularly if he continues in the shrill and nasty fashion he has, is that the moderates and independents on whom general elections always lie are going to be turned off to the Republican side of things.  Fortunately, there are ultra-left places like Gawker and HuffPo just chomping at the bit to go all “Mormons are weird,” which should act as a counterbalance to that force.  However, Obama does not seem to get smeared with the same brush as his media allies nearly so much as Romney will get smeared by a brush that should really only paint Gingrich and his increasingly small band of devotees.

    It’s time to corner Gingrich, we simply cannot afford to let him appear to be a part of the Republican mainstream, not if he is going to continue to operate in this fashion.  Gingrich’s non-concessionary speech struck me as someone that was trying to get his arms around his particular niche audience.  I did not hear third party threats so much as I heard the kind of rhetoric one might expect when trying to build a social network and develop a media career.

    I thought when Gingrich got into this thing it was a vanity campaign.  He was the beneficiary of a confluence of some extraordinary forces (Perry’s dismal failure coupled with pretty strong anti-Mormon sentiment) and it went to his head – he started to take himself seriously.  Tonight I heard a man returning to his original idea, with one notable exception – his audience is not where he thought it was.  His audience is amongst the more extreme and less tasteful of our conservative Republican movement.  Unlike Huckabee who after catering briefly to this element tacked center, Gingrich is tacking increasingly towards the hard and ugly right.  Huckabee has built himself a nice little media empire.  Gingrich may think that is what he is doing too, but he is so blowing his credibility that it may not materialize in the fashion he thinks it will.

    But the biggest problem is he may give Obama a second term in the effort.  We CANNOT let that happen.

    The best place to start is to steal an issue from Gingrich.  He prominently featured a discussion of the Obama adminsitration’s recent move against faith-based health care providers.  The Catholic Church is coming out on this in the strongest possible terms.  Mitt Romney needs to get in front of this as fast as he can.  Where Gingrich appears to be religiously divisive, we need to build bridges, and hurl rocks at Gingrich to make sure we can build faster than he can destroy.

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    Mitt Romney on Religious Liberty

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 05:19 pm, January 31st 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    As a follow-up to our post earlier today, we add here this excerpt from Mitt Romney’s 2008 speech accepting the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal. The citation was for “Courage in the Defense of Religious Freedom.”

    This excellent speech, showing a relaxed, confident Romney, needs to be better known.

    (HT: Hot Air.)

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    Listening To Yourself Talk

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 02:00 am, January 31st 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    YouTube is full of people that think it is cool to see and hear themselves on the internet.  David Parkman, whoever that is, must be one of those people.  He has his own YouTube channel and his episodes tend to pull in less viewers than this blog has daily readers – by an order of magnitude.  But he has his own logo and everything?!

    Here is his latest installment, notable only because he repeats the shoddy journalism, to say the least, of Gawker.  Now, if that is not enough, in the guise of an original presentation, he virtually reads the story word for word.  Somewhere he missed the incomplete and very defensive corrections Gawker made. (check the story)  He claims to have done “original research,” yet he could not even be bothered with original copy and clearly did not bother to read this blog.

    You know, we probably just tripled this guy’s views – and that is not a good thing.  But this story line is so ill-informed, so ugly and so distasteful that we have no choice.

    Mr. Parkman, if you are going to pass on left-wing anti-religious garbage, it’s a free country – but please – when you claim to have “looked into it more” – actually do so.

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    Gingrich Goes Nuclear – Palin Joins – Shame on Both

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:49 pm, January 30th 2012     &mdash      9 Comments »

    Burns & Haberman:

    Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of repeatedly disregarding the religious rights of Americans at a campaign stop in Tampa Monday, telling reporters that his opponent had a “lack of concern for religious liberty.”

    When it comes to how they handle faith, Gingrich said, Romney and President Barack Obama are cut from the same cloth.

    “You want a war on the Catholic Church by Obama? Guess what: Romney refused to allow Catholic hospitals to have conscience in their dealing with certain circumstances,” Gingrich said, apparently referring to the handling of emergency contraception in universal health care laws.

    He went on, speaking to a CNN reporter as a pack of press surrounded him: “Romney cut off kosher food to elderly Jews on Medicare. Both of them have the same lack of concern for religious liberty.”

    Gingrich escalated the attack in his remarks in an airplane hangar, saying Americans deserve a “government that respects our religions.”

    “I’m a little bit tired of being lectured about respecting every … religion on the planet, I would like him to respect our religion,” he said. A campaign spokesman confirmed Gingrich was referring to Romney.

    What?  I mean seriously – WHAT? The kosher meal crack has already been shown to be a lie.  Jennifer Rubin:

    His attacks on Mitt Romney have gotten loonier by the day. The latest is that Romney denied kosher meals to Medicare patients while he was governor of Massachusetts. According to the Romney camp, he issued numerous vetoes during his tenure for cost-cutting measures and restored funding for the kosher meals. The New York Post backs up Romney’s account: “The Massachusetts Legislature approved an amendment to restore the $600,000 to finance the kosher meals allowing a ‘most vulnerable segment of our population’ to ‘enjoy a special dignity,’ according to the Jewish Community Council.”

    OK – lying – that’s not new with Gingrich, but he usually reserves his lies for talking about himself.  Now he is lying about Romney and his record.  Rubin handled the kosher meal issue pretty well.  I am getting tired of people conflating Massachusetts healthcare with what Romney wanted to do.  Romney vetoed efforts by the Democrat legislature to do what Gingrich complains about, and the legislature overrode the veto.  There is no credible way to lay that one in Romney’s lap.

    But all of that would have been just politics at their ugly usual save for that last crack by the Newtser:

    “I’m a little bit tired of being lectured about respecting every … religion on the planet, I would like him to respect our religion,” he said. A campaign spokesman confirmed Gingrich was referring to Romney.

    At a minimum that’s a dog whistle.  Look, I understand there is a significant group of people out there who do not want to vote for Romney because of his faith - and I am sure that they are upset that their argument has been shot down to the point that virtually all reasonable people feel it illegitimate.  But that does not change the facts.  Apparently, however, Gingrich is willing to change some other facts in order to get that religious argument back into the debate.

    What is worst of all is that in the middle of a very serious war on religion in all its expressions from the government along precisely the lines that Gingrich outlines, he is willing to aim his barbs at others on his team rather than at those that deserve the fire.  Newt Gingrich clearly is about nothing but Newt Gingrich.

    And He Has Help, from None Other Than…Sarah Palin

    Everyone knows Sarah Palin, a noted Gingrich supporter, has a much-visited Facebook page.  It looks like any defense of Romney’s Mormonism on Palin’s page is promptly removed.  Consider these two screen shots:

    See that middle post – with the girl’s picture beside it (we have erased the names for obvious reasons).  It reads:

    I was told if we defend the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints, we are then banned form your Facebook page.  I would hope “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM” is still part of your beliefs, and this is not true.  I am a catholic, yet I have researched hte LDS< visited their headquarters in SLC when there on vacation.  I have many firends who are members of the LDS, and a family member who converted to the Mormon Religion.  I am sick of the bashing of a religion by supposed Conservatives and Republicans.  It must end!

    Now, take a look at the screenshot below.  It is taken from that same place on Palin’s Facebook page about 5 hours later; the comment just quoted is missing.  This blog does not provide room for us to reproduce these screenshots full size and maintain readability; just click the picture and it will come up full size.

    These screenshots were sent to us by  loyal reader Chanelle Jones, who emailed us.  We’ll let her tell her own story:

    Some one [ed. note: on the Facebook page] said that Romney was a Mormon that vowed to destroy America … which comment is still available BTW  – I can find it if you want … she said a couple other things that were pretty nasty towards our religion and Romney. My brother left a comment asking that the offensive comment  be removed and remember to keep Church and State seperate. His comment was deleted and then he was banned. He emailed me, frustrated, and out of couriosity I checked it out. I then left a comment pointing out that Sarah was censoring her comments and violating freedom of speech. I asked that she remember what our nation was founded on … freedom of religion … and also asked to have the offensive comments removed. One reader left a comment of “Wow … censorship?” His and my comments were then deleted and I was banned. BUT the same vile comment {and now many others} were left for all to see. I really wish I could have seen it coming and took a screen shot of it. That’s why when I saw the comment today I did and then watched it.

    Well, that pretty much speaks for itself.  Sarah Palin is a private citizen and entitled to handle her Facebook page as she sees fit, but she is an influential private citizen and by defending Gingrich in this fashion, she paints him with the same bigoted brush she has painted herself.

    Newt Gingrich and, sadly, Sarah Palin have just disqualified themselves from serious consideration for high office.

    ADDENDUM – 5 HOURS AFTER INITIAL PUBLICATION

    The Wall Street Journal gives us more on Gingrich’s statements:

    “He has no understanding of the importance of conscience or the importance of religious liberty in this country,” said Mr. Gingrich of Mr. Romney, who is a Mormon. “I will make religious liberty your right, to go with God with no government interference.”

    Now wait just a doggone minute.  I thought Newt Gingrich was an historian.  And yet saying that Mitt Romney, a Mormon, “has no understanding of the importance of conscience or the importance of religious liberty in this country,” may be one of the most historically ignorant statements made in this cycle.  A good deal of the religious liberty law that has been written or decided in this nation is a direct result of Mormons and their early practices.  I don’t think there is a religion in this nation that has more direct experience with religious liberty than the Mormons.

    This nation now stands by silently while Islamic men practice polygamy in major urban centers.  Can you imagine what a different nation this would be if the same had been true for the Mormons practice?  The settling of the west and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad would be very different and less consequential stories than they actually are.  Some historian.

    And then, the “importance of conscience.”  Well, Newt Gingrich followed his own conscience into serial adultery – ’nuff said.

    Should Florida come out as the polls predict and Romney wins, we will be able to consider Gingrich’s downward spiral into this sort of ignorant pathetic tripe pitiable, but humorous.  But for the next few hours at least it’s just wrong, nasty and ugly.

    Lowell adds . . .

    As to John’s comments above I’ll just note that in 2008 Mitt Romney shared the Canterbury Medal for religious freedom with Elie Wiesel and a few others.

    The Canterbury Medal is the Becket Fund’s highest honor. It recognizes courage in the defense of religious liberty and is named for Canterbury Cathedral, where Thomas à Becket was martyred by the knights of King Henry II for his own defense of religious freedom. The Canterbury Medal is thus given annually to one “who has resolutely and publicly refused to render to Caesar that which is God’s.”

    Gingrich’s criticism of Romney is absurd and embarrassing.  A “lack of concern for religious liberty?” Oh, please.
    .

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    The Tatooed Man

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 11:33 am, January 30th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Newt Gingrich loves history.

    He will understand then why the Republican Party must not nominate him. We tried nominating an aging former Speaker of the House scarred by scandal and lost an election we should have won.

    Newt Gingrich is James G. Blaine for the twenty-first century.

    Like Gingrich, former Speaker Blaine was a man of amazing accomplishments and talents. Also like Gingrich he had longed for the White House, but had seen it won by lesser men.

    Finally, in a weak field his time came. But a run for President of the United States has always stripped a man of every fig leaf that covers his nakedness. Few of us could stand such scrutiny and James G. Blaine could not.

    He had used his time near power to enrich himself and the scandals of his past were tattooed over his record obscuring all the good he had done.

    And he had done great good.

    The scrutiny to be President is greater than that of almost any job and few can stand it. Rogues have become President, see Warren G. Harding, and cads have been able to do some good, see Franklin D. Roosevelt, but mostly when a roué runs he is exposed.

    Even the most honorable candidate, like Theodore Roosevelt, will not have unblemished history, but the scars we see will be those of victory over human failings, not indulging in them. Blaine’s problems were captured in the political cartoon “The Tattooed Man” a terrible heritage for a man who tried to go further than character would allow.

    The President of the United States has three basic jobs: head of state, head of government, and Commander in Chief. Like Blaine, Newt Gingrich has made himself unfit for all of them.

    The role of head of state gives you access to the largest pulpit in the world, what Theodore Roosevelt called the “bully pulpit.” Fortunately, it is a civic pulpit and not a religious one. We are electing a civil role model to represent us to the planet on human concerns, not a pope, pastor, or priest to pray for us to God.

    Some might argue that a candidate like Romney has broken the Ten Commandments by a “defective theology.” Fortunately for Governor Romney, we need him to argue for human life, liberty, and happiness—not stand as a prophet or priest before the Almighty.

    Speaker Gingrich has, I am told, developed a sound theology toward divine things, but has sadly a bad history in loving humans well. If electing a President to talk about theology to the nation, the traditional Christian might prefer Gingrich to Romney.

    But the bully pulpit should never be used that way and will not be used that way. Instead, in these times it must be used to defend the right to life and traditional marriage.

    By his choices, Mr. Gingrich has marred his ability to make that case beyond all hope. He cannot use the bully pulpit as we need him to use it.

    Mr. Gingrich has attempted the role of “head of government” in the past. A weakened Bill Clinton seemed unable to govern and Mr. Gingrich wrested control of the agenda from him.

    The result was a disaster for the Republican Party and helped reelect Bill Clinton. Mr. Gingrich has never run anything successfully. His campaign this year is constantly marred by staff turnover, organizational flaws, and lack of funding. Mr. Gingrich is undisciplined mentally and rhetorically.

    While a good campaigner may not be able to be a good head of government, a bad campaigner surely will never get the chance. Each failure in House leadership and failure in controlling his own “consulting” organizations branded Mr. Gingrich.

    A lifetime of failure to govern leaves him unfit for the next level.

    The President is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. As a civilian he must command non-civilians, but this requires having their respect. A President also has the ability to press the nuclear button, start a war by imprudence, or destroy the peace with an errant word.

    Mr. Gingrich has never shown the prudence in speech or action we need from the man with the bomb.

    None of this is to deny Mr. Gingrich’s skills. He is and has been a major player in American politics. He is a transformational figure with great gifts, but like an equally gifted man, James G. Blaine, his weaknesses mean he never will or should be President.

    Like Gingrich, most of us should never run for President. We covet the grace that God gives but the media has not and never will give. We wish to be judged as men and women and not as Leaders of the Free World.

    We temper our expectations to our character and past errors.

    God has a good work for Mr. Gingrich, but over the years he chose to use his connections to enrich himself. That tattoo will not vanish. He indulged his desires at the expense of his character. That tattoo will not vanish. He has refused to discipline his intellect.

    For his own good and the good of the party, Mr. Gingrich should retire to head a think tank or teach at a college lest he be remembered simply as a freak in the nominating show: the Tattooed Man of 2012.

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    Gawker’s Lack of Decency

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:41 am, January 30th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Just a quick comment on John’s post below about the unfortunate Gawker report on Ann Romney’s late father.

    So far we have avoided quoting what Gawker said, for fear of disseminating further what we consider to be sloppy, calloused journalism — at best. But there is more information now, and to put the sorry episode in full perspective, here’s what the author, John Cook, originally wrote:

    Gawker’s substantial Mormon readership has come through for us: Two readers have sent us confirmation that Edward Davies, Mitt Romney’s militantly atheist father-in-law, was indeed posthumously converted to Mormonism by his family, despite the fact that when he was alive he regarded all religions as “hogwash.”

    (Emphasis added.) My first thought on reading that was, “How does one describe the deceased father in-law of a presidential candidate as ‘militantly atheist’ based on anonymous sources?”

    As John writes in another post below, the Gawker author was simply wrong. Today, Gawker was forced to correct its story in response to the following e-mail from Jim Davies, Ann Romney’s brother and Edward Davies’ son:

    Mr. Denton,

    I’m not sure about the law’s position on slander or libel vis a vis someone who is dead, but my father’s reputation matters a great deal to me, and your correspondent’s contention that my father was an atheist is blatantly false. I demand that the record be corrected and that you print a retraction. If you or someone would care to contact me on the issue I will be happy to give you the facts. Dad had faith in God, or a higher power, or something much bigger than himself, but saw organized religion as something man-made. Does that sound like a “committed atheist” or a “resolute atheist”? We had numerous conversations on the topic. I am truly astonished at the irresponsibility and callousness of your publication.

    In addition to these inaccuracies, he worked on the Apollo program, not Gemini. There is so much conjecture and outright fantasy in these contentions, I am absolutely astonished. If I were this sloppy in my work as an ophthalmologist there is no way I could maintain a credible practice—or maintain a license to practice.

    It is also beyond my comprehension (and I presume that you view your “Gawker” as a legitimate source for “news”) that your reporter would not even make the effort to make a phone call to confirm a story that is bound to get so much play in the media. Or, is it possible that you and yours are agenda-driven, and that your intent is to smear a candidate?

    Mr. Cook, the author, seems quite defensive in his response:

    My claim that [Edward Davies] was an atheist was based on the following:

    • Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported that “Mr. Davies, who also served as mayor of the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, rebelled against his strict upbringing as a Welsh Congregationalist and became strongly opposed to all organized religion. ‘He would say: ‘I’m a scientist, show me the proof’,’ recalled [a former colleague].”
    • In 2007, the Boston Globe quoted Edward’s son Roderick saying that “Dad considered people who were religious to be weak in the knees.” The Globe further reported that Edward had “absolutely no use for religion,” regarded it as “drudgery and hogwash,” and “insisted [that his wife] give up organized religion” before marrying her.

    We will not belabor this further, except to note this: If these Telegraph and Globe reports are the evidence on which Mr. Cook relies, it is very difficult to see how he concludes that Edward Davies was “militantly atheist.” Agnostic, yes; but opposition to organized religion and a demand for scientific proof do not an atheist make. Maybe the type of writer who uses the term “voodoo” to describe the Mormon beliefs in question, as Mr. Cook also did in his Gawker piece, is also one who places a higher value on snarkiness than on fairness, accuracy, or decency. That seems to have been the case here.

    John Says – A Mere Taste Of The Indecency To Come

    Let’s look at just two paragraphs from the Gawker post, written before any corrections:

    Of course this is all empty superstition, as Davies realized. Being dead, he wasn’t particularly in a place to care about whatever voodoo was performed in his name. But it’s an exceedingly odd way for the Romney family to honor the memory of a man who was committed, for his entire life, to the notion that organized religion is a fraud.

    The Mormon church has repeatedly been criticized for its practice of trawling for dead souls to convert to the faith. Catholic and Jewish organizations have expressed outrage when the names of dead popes and Holocaust victims have turned up on Mormon lists of the baptized. In 1995, the church pledged to “discontinue any future baptisms of deceased Jews” except for direct descendents of living Mormons, tacitly acknowledging that its creepy and weird to claim the souls of people who had no interest in Mormonism for their own. It’s strange that the Romney and Davies families didn’t accord Edward Davies’ memory the same respect.

    Consider the language in those paragraphs, “superstition,” “voodoo,” “odd way,” “trawling,” creepy,” “weird” and “strange.” These words lack simple respect.  Yesterday I talked about posthumous rituals bringing comfort to the survivors and said:

    These stories stomp upon and ridicule a source of comfort to the still living members of the Davies clan.  There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, “Christian” about such an action.  These stories are simply inhumane.  Most of the Mormon stuff written in this and the last campaign was wrong, but that is politics.  This particular line of inquiry is simply shameful.

    That is frankly the most important consideration, but this words are disrespectful of religion generally.  What makes Mormonism “voodoo” and Catholic infant baptism “generally accepted practice?”  Well, there are only three choices.  One, you’re, say, Catholic and find Mormonism heretical.  We’ll get back to this in a minute.  Two, you believe all religion to be “voodoo.” Fair enough, but that also says if you are one of the people in the first category, you should be defending the Mormons because your practice is, in the eyes of the second category, just as “weird” as theirs.  At a minimum a person of a faith that finds Mormonism errant should temper their vocabulary out of simple decency. (Looks like some Catholics agree with me.)

    But the third reason a person might make a “voodoo” type judgment is simple political expediency.  Now, political attacks of that sort are an indiscriminate weapon – once fired they are going to hit everything that remotely resembles the target.  (Taking us back to the second category.)  Then there is the fact that we on the Republican side of the aisle are suckers if we fall for this – such divisions only weaken us.

    It’s this last category that tells us the most important political takeaway form this incident – it’s foreshadowing.  Look for the Obamaites to unleash a barrage of this kind of disrespectful, indiscriminate, indecent, and personally harmful attack.

    This is going to get really ugly.

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