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."

Witnessing The Creation Of A Straw Man

Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:53 pm, February 28th 2012     —    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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Posted in Candidate Qualifications, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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