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."

  • Religious attacks will increase, not subside, when Romney becomes the nominee

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 05:18 pm, February 29th 2012     &mdash      8 Comments »

    Last night, just as everyone was commenting on the Michigan and Arizona primaries, Salon’s Joan Walsh decided to join what Hugh Hewitt calls “the bigot parade.”  Even as Mitt Romney was giving his victory speech, Walsh wasted no time:

    freddoso (@freddoso)
    2/28/12 7:55 PM

    RT @joanwalsh: Romney’s saving the soul of America – so he doesn’t have to baptize us after we’re dead.

    Now, Walsh is far from a nobody like Charles M. Blow.  She an “MSNBC regular and Salon.com editor-at-large.”  So we have an editor of a well-known, established online publication sounding like an anti-Mormon who’s had too much to drink at a party — except Walsh was blathering on the Internet.

    Guy Benson decided to fight with some wit:

    Guy Benson (@guypbenson)
    2/28/12 8:23 PM

    I’m offended by @JoanWalsh ‘s bigoted attack on Harry Reid’s faith.

    Seemingly feeling her oats and inspired by her cleverness, Walsh doubled down:

    Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen)
    2/28/12 8:40 PM

    RT @joanwalsh: Also, Romney was the one who said he wanted to save our souls, just another apocalyptic, hysterical attack on the president.

    Feeling the heat, perhaps, Walsh tried to take  half-step back. then took one step forward:

    Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen)
    2/28/12 8:38 PM

    RT @joanwalsh: I’m torn: I honor religious freedom. But Elie Wiesel asked Romney to ask his church to stop baptizing Jews incl Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl.

    Walsh finally tweeted an apology of sorts:

    8:40 PM – 28 Feb 12

    However, I believe in keeping religion out of politics and I don’t want to be responsible for everything my Church preaches, so I apologize

    Amid all this Melissa Clouthier, a socially conservative tweeter, retweeted an insight:

    Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets)
    2/28/12 8:35 PM

    RT @dangainor: Ah irony, brown shirt left will now Jihad against Mormons, forcing social cons to defend Mitt even if they oppose him.

    Think about that last one.  Over the last 6 years my co-blogger John has repeatedly made the point that a religious attack on one politician is really an attack on all politicians who take their religious faith seriously.  There’s no reason to think that Joan Walsh’s repulsive foray into twigotry will be the last by an establishment news media pundit.  It will be interesting to see how religious conservatives like Melissa respond.  My bet is that they will close ranks around Romney just as they have around Santorum.  I hope they can do so before too much damage is done.  As we’ve said before, there is power in denunciation.

    UPDATEYesterday I posted about a Washington Post article that raised once again the Mormon policy against allowing black men to hold our church’s priesthood, which ended in 1978.  A BYU religion professor made some unfortunate comments to the Post, which the newspaper dutifully published. Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published this statement, which is remarkable for its directness:

    The Church issued the following statement today in response to news media requests:

    The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

    The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

    For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent.  It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

    We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

    This will not satisfy some people, but it’s hard to think of much more than can reasonably be expected.

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    *SIGH* Reading The Press This Morning, I guess Romney Really Did Not Win Two Big States Yesterday

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:35 am, February 29th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    I have a friend that takes enormous, and I mean ENORMOUS, joy at pointing out whenever possible that my beloved Butler Bulldogs have pulled up one game short for the national championship the last two years running.  We Butler fans tend to point out that Butler is a tiny school (Dick Vitale quipped last year the Connecticut’s recruiting phone bill was larger than Butler’s entire basketball budget) and take great pride in the achievements even without that final victory.  In fact, two years ago when Butler lost to Duke by an in-and-out three pointer at the buzzer, Butler was the story, not Duke.  But Duke still has the trophy, one of several.

    Mitt Romney has the trophy – one of several at this point – but reading the press you would think something entirely different.  The NYTimes says the race is “unsettled.“   The leading Christian branded news outlet in the nation calls the Michigan win “uninspiring” and does not mention Arizona.  And then it starts to get creepy.  Another NYTimes post says:

    Arizona Mormons Provide an Edge

    And yet one of our regular commenters, a Mormon living in Arizona, made a very relevant comment just last week:

    One of the problems that Mormons have in Arizona is that many people have moved here in the last 15 years from other states. Lots from places like Michigan and the midwest, looking for employment and trying to leave the snow behind. Some of these people have brought their anti-Mormon prejudice with them. During Salmon’s run for government, I heard an exchange on the radio which I will never forget. A woman called in and expressed her concern that people would not vote for Salmon because “he is a Mormon.” This woman said she had lived in Utah for a number of years, and while not a Mormon herself, she had really liked and respected her neighbors. She said that “Mormons get a bad rap.” The radio talk show host agreed with her. He is a native Arizonan. He explained that a woman who had moved here from another state said to him, “I can’t vote for Matt Salmon because you know how those Mormons are about women.” Charles said, “Well, there might be some of the ‘get-in-the-back-of-the-station-wagon-Mormon women’, but they aren’t the Mormon women I know.” Some members of our Church have been here for seven or eight generations. They have elementary schools and streets named after them. I know at least two women who have served or are serving on the school board. The ideas expressed by this woman about Mormons are as false as they are damaging. The only reason Mormons more often get elected in states with higher Mormon populations (outside of Utah) is because most people know enough members that we don’t frighten them. [emphasis added]

    Yet the actual data reveal that Romney won pretty much every demographic except “true conservatives” (whatever that means) and “born-again Christians.”  Methinks I see a code here.

    Yesterday afternoon when we realized the extents to which the left would go to attack religion, I said:

    But in the far more likely event Romney emerges as the nominee, they can add “Mormon” into the discussion and kick start the thing all over again.

    Here we go!  And they are being ably assisted by the far right.  Back to my quip above about “the leading Christian branded news outlet” – I flat out do not get David Brody.  I met him at the “Faith in America” speech in 2007 and he had nothing bad to say about Romney.  But this time….

    The Dems have already launched in to the Veep race.  What does that tell you about whether this thing is “unsettled” or not?  And some of it has just gotten silly.

    There was an op-ed out of the UK yesterday that was extraordinary:

    You got an idea of McCain as a man.

    You dont get that with Romney. Worse still for Romney, he cannot copper-bottom his candidacy with culture. This is not just a question of money or class but, unavoidably, one of religion.

    For understandable reasons he is keen to avoid making his candidacy a referendum on Mormonism. But he cannot talk about who he is without talking about Mormonism. And talking about Mormonism makes his candidacy some kind of referendum on Mormonism. So Romney is doomed to be the Man from Nowhere, a candidate without bottom who is, and can only be, defined by his record in office and the wealth he accumulated at Bain.

    [...]

    If all this is the case and Romney still actually wins the nomination then, in some ways, he will have pulled off one hell of a trick. The Republican party in its present mood is not built to welcome the likes of Mitt Romney. All his advantages  – save perhaps financial muscle – have been compromised and yet he remains the favourite. Doubtless this owes much to his impossibly implausible opponents but its own small way it will be an achievement if the Man from Nowhere actually prevails.

    That is very insightful.  But here it is – Romney now is the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination.  Spin, prevaricate, and analyze the exit polls all you want – Mitt Romney has the trophy.  The party that “ in its present mood is not built to welcome the likes of Mitt Romney” needs to figure out how to alter its mood pretty quickly or it is going to find itself aiding and abetting the reelection of Barack Obama.  There is something wrong when David Brody sounds this much like the New York Times.

    I can find no cause for the ennui amongst Republicans other than religion.  The voting results tell me the ennui is overstated to some extent, but it’s there nonetheless.  However, at this point such emotion is as much a weapon in the hands of Democrats as it is an expression of the party’s mood.

    I love Butler, but Duke (and Connecticut) still won.  Butler did amazing things and will continue to do so – God I love them.  But the plaudits belong to Duke and Connecticut.

    The plaudits belong to Mitt Romney and if a significant portion of the party is not willing to acknowledge that they do not benefit, Obama does.  It’s time to give Romney the conference championship  so Obama does not win the big dance.

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    Witnessing The Creation Of A Straw Man

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:53 pm, February 28th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    It began in New Hampshire when a debate moderator asked a question which now obviously demonstrates having been briefed by the current administration.  It took solid form when the Obama administration made a policy ruling clearly designed to have ripples in Republican primary.

    The Democrats wanted to push social issues/religion to the front burner in this election.  I think this thing has worked out for them far better than could have hoped.  What they wanted to do was trouble their presumptive opponent – Mitt Romney.  They knew that bringing these issues to the fore they would aid the “not Romney’s.”  What they have done, ably aided by Rick Santorum’s penchant for over statement and hyperbole, is create a straw man at which they can tilt until November.

    We have spent plenty of time on this blog dealing with Santorum’s long list of poor word choice, over statement, hyperbole, and simple thinking-before-speaking – that’s to be expected.  We’re Romney folks around here.  But we have never accused Santorum of being a theocrat, or any such similar nonsense.

    But the left is beginning to make that accusation.  Consider George Packer a The New Yorker:

    Santorum claims to be a constitutionalist, but that’s just rhetoric and opportunism. Santorum believes in a religious test—that may be all he believes in.

    And then there is former NYTimes editor Bill Keller on “Morning Joe” this AM:

    Remember earlier in the campaign when Newt Gingrich was worrying everyone about Sharia law — the Muslims were going to impose Sharia law in America? Sometimes Santorum sounds like he’s creeping up on a Christian version of Sharia law.

    Whoa! “Them’s serious charges,” he said in the vernacular.  Said Hugh Hewitt:

    To advance their cause, and thus the re-election chances of the president they love, Mr. Keller and Mr. Packer are quite willing to throw overboard all elementary understanding of what freedom of religion means and to distort not just Santorum’s arguments and ignore their own, but also to stoke the fires of religious bigotry as a means to those ends.  A kind of Christian Sharia law?  That is akin to accusing Mr. Keller of the sort of crimes against people that would be slanderous per se.

    Hugh, constitutional law professor that he is, is right on that level, but I wonder if people care and I wonder if they have not created a political winner.  The religiously motivated voters, many of whom have “issues” with Romney find people like George and Keller anathema.  When they say things like this they stoke in some fashion the Santorum fires.  Thus they continue to trouble their presumptive opponent, again Mitt Romney.

    But more, they have set the table for the general.  If by some near-inconceivable scenario Santorum wins the nomination, well, they can pound this drum harder and louder than ever.  Here’s hoping in that event that Santorum figures out the right way to talk about these things.  I mean, let’s face it, the man has given them plenty of sound bite ammo for this particular battle.

    But in the far more likely event Romney emerges as the nominee, they can add “Mormon” into the discussion and kick start the thing all over again.  And this time simply by virtue of the widespread ignorance of Mormonism, it’ll be effective.  Romney has remained above this fray because he has not really spoken of his faith, other than to acknowledge its existence and personal importance to his life – at least this cycle.  However, in the heated environment of a general election campaign, will Romney be able to remain above the fray?  They now have a massive lever to try and get him to talk about his faith – something that is a two-edged sword at best.

    But let’s return to Hewitt’s comment, “throw overboard all elementary understanding of what freedom of religion….” In other words, they are willing to throw aside the Constitution to win an election.  But, in point of fact, it’s not just about winning the election.  The left has wanted to banish religion for quite a while now.  They view religion as the primary obstacle to their continued trudge down the road to their particular Utopian dream.

    But what kind of utopia is it when they are worried about issues concerning sexual practice when boatloads of people are out of work, losing their homes, and otherwise suffering due to economic condition?  What kind of utopia is it when the rules of the road don’t matter?  The latter question I can answer pretty simply – it’s a utopia for them because they can keep shifting the rules to their advantage.  That, dear friends is the definition of “un-American.”

    Lowell adds . . .

    In addition to a strong “amen!” to what John writes above, I’ll note briefly this Washington Post piece on Romney and Mormonism’s former limitation on black men serving in the church’s lay priesthood.  The article is not terribly remarkable and seems to make an effort at finding balance, but this is an old subject and the writer adds nothing to the discussion.  Why bring this up now?  Will we have to go over this again and again as the fall general election approaches?

    The Post found a BYU religion professor Randy Bott, who made some very unfortunate statements.  Any Mormon (myself  included) who knows much about the history of the church’s position on the issue will cringe as they read the Professor Bott’s comments.  I do not doubt that his intentions were good, but Botts comments are borderline disastrous and do not represent the best and most current thinking on the subject.  He is not a church spokesman and in my opinion had no business holding forth on the subject as if he were.

    Here’s what is interesting about the Post piece:  It mentions only in passing Romney’s 2007 interview on Meet the Press, in which he addressed the subject head-on:

    I am hard-pressed to think of anything else Romney can or should say about the former ban.

    For those interested, there is a wealth of information on the subject of blacks and the Mormons here. Also, in a recent e-mail to subscribers, Scott Gordon, the President of FAIR, the leading unofficial Mormon apologetics organization, addressed three “myths” commonly held among Mormons regarding the priesthood ban, and said:

    Men are slow to change in their beliefs. Even in the New Testament, Peter had to be lifted beyond his prejudice to sit and eat with the Gentiles. I hope we all take the time to familiarize ourselves with this topic and not perpetuate the hurtful and harmful myths that have been repeated for so long.

    I wish the Post had spoken with Mr. Gordon instead of Professor Botts.

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    Voting Day – Let The Shenanigins Begin

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:29 am, February 28th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    First of all – just surveying the coverage, everyone talks about Michigan, no one Arizona – curiouser and curiouser.  See there is no way Romney loses AZ – polling way too strong.  Michigan is tighter, but the polling momentum has all been Romney’s way in the last week, with the last legit polls showing him in the lead.  But this morning I find:

    PPP’s final poll in Michigan finds Rick Santorum holding on to the smallest of leads with 38% to 37% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich.

    Well, Triple-P, I’m gonna pay attention to that!  Particularly when we find Democrat operatives are not the only ones running Santorum robocalls aimed at Democrats:

    Earlier Monday, Santorum’s campaign confirmed it was using robo calls rallying Democratic voters to come out to the polls Tuesday and cast their ballots against Romney.

    Precisely who is the honorable conservative guy here?  At some point one must balance “just win baby” with character.  And while we are confusing people here, how about this:

    In the tight Michigan primary race, Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, leads among Republican evangelicals. Some polls show Mitt Romney, a Mormon, leading among Catholics.

    Now that is just fascinating to me.  One possible conclusion here – Catholics are more open minded and smarter than Evangelicals.  Being of an evangelical bent myself, that is something I certainly hope is not true.  Some of Santorum’s fellow Catholics are not that impressed with him, or his bombast.

    But it also raises an interesting question – Who is the chameleon here?  Is Santorum really “pure” or just bombastic?  Is bombastic what indicates “authenticity?”  I’m beginning to wonder if what Evangelicals think is authentic is really that authentic.

    There is, of course, the usual:

    A Michigan pastor who introduced Rick Santorum at a Monday campaign event in Lansing claimed that Mitt Romney is not a Christian and said Santorum is the one Republican candidate who can awaken “the sleeping giant” of Christianity.

    Sure is convenient how many pastors have introduced Santorum decrying Romney’s faith in one form or another and it simply does not make news.  Remember Florida?  (BTW, it seems vomit is a recurring theme of Team Santorum.  Lovely imagery isn’t it?)

    What’s really troubling is that somewhere in Santorum is a good important message.  Too bad his tongue gets in the way of getting it out there.

    So, Let’s Bottom Line This

    You beat Romney in Michigan and you wound him enough that he might not win.  (Emphasis on “might.”)  Romney wins Michigan he remains what he always has been – the-more-than-just-likely Republican nominee,  And the guy that Obama most fears in the general.

    So we have, 1) the news media and biased polls trying to shift the election, 2) the only Republican left in a position to challenge Romney effectively teaming with Democrats to try and win, and 3) the only Republican left in a position to challenge Romney indirectly playing the religion card and being something of a religious chameleon.  (Not to mention Obama making policy decisions to give Santorum a leg up [HHS mandate])

    Makes one question how genuine the Santorum support really is, doesn’t it?

    Therefore – pay no attention to anything you hear during the day today – none.  Wait until the polls close and then pay attention only to official results.  I even have my concerns about post-poll closing projections in this environment, they’ll say things about Michigan to affect Arizona.  Wait for it, patiently.

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    It May Be Legal, We May Know About It But It Is STILL A Dirty Trick

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:09 pm, February 27th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    Scott Conroy:

    To an inattentive listener, the 30-second phone message that went out to about 80,000 Michiganders last week might have sounded like a standard robo-call made on behalf of Rick Santorum’s campaign.

    “Please Press ’1′ if you are committed to voting for Rick Santorum in next week’s GOP primary,” said a recorded voice in the call. “Vote Rick Santorum on Tuesday, February 28.”

    But the calls were issued not by supporters of the conservative Republican White House hopeful but by Joe DiSano, a Democratic operative in the state to whom the idea of Santorum actually becoming president is both implausible and unpalatable.

    “Democrats can help embarrass Mitt Romney and expose him as the weak front-runner that he is by supporting Rick Santorum on Tuesday,” DiSano said in the robo-call, revealing its intent.

    Other coverage at Big Government and the Washington Post.  If you are the recipient of this sort of help, running on the fact that you are the “real” conservative, what’s the honorable response here?  Or do you just take the votes and run?

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    JFK On The Block

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:41 am, February 27th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    The pounding, much of it earned, on Rick Santorum continues in the mainstream media.  We had made a decision here to not participate because while Santorum is not the candidate for our time, he is not a bad guy.  We have continued to speculate that the not-Romney surges, Santorum simply being the latest, have been powered in part by anti-Mormon bias.  Well this morning I ran into a piece that ties Santorum and anti-Mormon bias too tightly not to give it some attention.

    It comes from our old friend Al Mohler:

    Wehner is probably right, and any politician who seeks election at the national level had better avoid sweeping moral judgments. But, in the end, that same politician will have to answer pointed questions that the mainstream media have learned to ask. No amount of determination to “stay positive” will last when the media taste moral judgment in the air.

    Finally, Rick Santorum attracts protests on college campuses because people believe him when he speaks. William McGurn of The Wall Street Journal pointed out recently that, even as Rick Santorum opposes same-sex marriage, so did Barack Obama when he ran for the White House in 2008 (and, at least in terms of official statements, even now). But Santorum gets jeered and Obama gets a pass. Why? McGurn understands: “There’s no mystery why. Mr. Santorum is attacked because everyone understands that he means what he says.”

    That may be the real bottom line when it comes to the Santorum predicament. Saying such things might not be a problem, but saying them when everyone understands that you mean them . . . that is another thing altogether.

    Uh-huh.  No evocation of the “Mormons lie” meme there….

    Mohler simply ignores the fact that a large portion of the nation disagrees with he and Santorum.  Do I think the nation is in moral decay? – YES!!!! A thousand times, “yes.”  But that does not mean that bludgeoning the nation from the pulpit of electoral politics or the White House is the solution to the problem.  One simple question for you Dr. Mohler, “How many Mormons do you think are going to give you the time of day, let alone engage in serious discussion that might lead to their conversion, when you make it public that you assume they are all liars?”  More, if we are as tyrannical about our morality as  the left has been about its immorality, will their behavior change or will they simply start calling us names and revolt when the the opportunity presents itself?

    So, with that introduction, let’s look at Santorum’s latest bit of overblown rhetoric:

    Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) on Sunday defended a statement he made last October in which he said that he “almost threw up” when he read John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Houston address on the role of religion in public life.

    This got quite a bit of coverage, most extensively from the NYTimes.  While overstating the case significantly, Santorum’s comments are quite reflective of Roman Catholic thought.

    I have a different take on JFK’s now very famous address – full text here.  The problems are rhetorical, not substantive.  Much like Jefferson’s letters to the Danbury Baptists, from which the phrase “separation of church and state” has been lifted, one must view the words in the context of the time and circumstances that they were spoken.  Time does not permit a detailed analysis of the speech, but let me set the stage and you can read it for yourself and I think you will get my point.

    The primary concern regarding a Kennedy presidency was not abortion or same sex marriage or any other particular issue – it was the a question of whether a prelate in Rome could dictate American policy to a sitting US president.  One must remember this is before Roe v Wade, which is what really triggered the advent of religious conscience into the public realms.  That issue of papal dictation to heads of state is not as “whacked” as it sounds.  One must remember that the Protestant Reformation was born in part because the Vatican was in fact dictating the policy of nations in Europe at the time.  That was a very specific issue that Kennedy had to address.  Kennedy was addressing a question of institutional powers, not morality generally.

    With that in mind, go read the speech.  Have Kennedy’s words been stretched beyond that context and in the process warped?  Did some of Kennedy’s rhetoric permit such warpage?  Not unlike Jefferson’s Danbury letter, I would answer both questions in the affirmative.

    And with that I will leave you with a question.  If Santorum finds Kennedy’s speech that repugnant, does he in fact want the Vatican to be able to dictate national policy?

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