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 Washington Post Thinks They Are A Kid In A Candy Store – They’re Wrong

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:31 am, May 31st 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    As I perused the stack of stuff this morning I was stunned by how much of it came from the Washington Post – five, count them five, articles:

    Oh yeah, and then Breitbart ran a refutation to one that did not make it on to our radar.

    Forget what is in those pieces, by the sheer volume WaPo is attempting to make the faith of Mitt Romney THE topic.  Let’s step into the Way Back Machine to 2007 to April 2007.  The NYTimes had just published a lengthy piece by Ken Woodward  – attempting to write the “definitive” piece on the Mormon issue.  I said:

    One of the more truly amazing things about this is that the newspaper that considers itself “American’s paper of record” is so far behind the curve here.  Woodward’s piece is remarkably similar to the dozens of others we have seen and linked to on this blog over the last year.  When everybody read just their local paper such pieces were not part of the news, but instead they were THE news, but now they simply have the appearance of piling on.  The Old Grey Lady is reduced to attempting to have the final say instead of THE say.

    The days are gone when the old media – and especially the old PRINT media even if it is distributed on the Internet – can define THE topic.  In this case, I am not even sure they are reflective of the topics that are out there.  The ’08 cycle was one heck of an inoculation, and those that were not inoculated in ’08 were by this cycle’s primary.  Mormonism is unlikely to be a discrete issue.  Things that reflect Mormonism will – “weird” and its relatives – but not Mormonism discretely.

    Yes, there are silly people out there still, but they are few and far between.  There is one other issue at play here – we now have partaken of the governance of Barack Obama.  Said Daniel Henninger;

    How ironic it will be if Catholic voters, about 27% of the electorate, put the first Mormon in the White House some 50 years after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president. More telling, though, about the current state of the American mind will be the fact that after more than a thousand days and events in Barack Obama’s presidency, the reason for this result will be an unexpected reaffirmation of an American principle older than the country’s first presidential election: the free exercise of religion.

    [...]

    Some things don’t change, though, and among them is an American antipathy to being pushed too far. Americans are a tolerant people, but past some point they push back. With the HHS mandate upon them, a lot of Catholic voters are thinking resistance. It’s an old American tradition.

    The Catholic lawsuits filed against the HHS mandate are based in the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause. That’s the legal issue. But the reason so much hell broke loose after the Obama administration’s decision is that it runs afoul of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause against creating a state religion. The issue here isn’t the parsings of constitutional law but the American religious experience that led to the Establishment Clause.

    Suzanne Fields gets it:

    Mr. Romney is sensitive about his religion, as most believers are in a skeptical age, but the issue seems not nearly as hot as it was four years ago when he gave a strong speech emphasizing the separation of church and state. “I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion,” he said, “but I will not separate us from the God who gave us liberty. Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage.” He would be no more beholden to Mormon holy men than John F. Kennedy was to the pope.

    In this campaign we see a man whose faith has shaped his family values. With his wife, Ann, he raised five accomplished sons with a work ethic. There are significant doctrinal differences separating Mormons and evangelical Christians but they aren’t about governing the country. If religion plays a part in the campaign, it will be over concerns for religious liberty, not parochial doctrine or Mr. Romney’s faith or the president’s religious tutelage by the notorious Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    Obama in his assault on religious liberty has completely changed the playing field.   And in doing so he has left the Washington Post and their seemingly incessant “Mormon” drumbeat looking completely out of touch with the real topic that is on the mind of most Americans.  Whatever differences exist between Mormonism and more traditional Christian churches appear minor and insignificant in the face of an assault by an Obama led government on the most basic of religious expression.

    I cannot pretend to know the political mathematics on Team Obama that have brought us to this point, all I know is that they are not working for Mr. Obama.  We do not like being bullied.  And we especially do not like being bullied when it comes to our faith.  In an effort to be gracious, a deeply ingrained trait developed in us by our faith, we have worked hard to make accommodation for those that do not agree with us – that is the great American compromise.  But now we are being told that there is no accommodation for us.  That is unacceptable.

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    Romney Clinches, So We Talk About Mormonism?!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 02:00 pm, May 30th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    Becoming the nominee of one’s party for POTUS is an extraordinary accomplishment.  It ranks among the biggest accomplishments any individual can do in America.  The accomplishment is testament to a desire, effort and skill set to which few can lay claim.  While it is true that any citizen may become president, few of us actually can – we lack the necessary capabilities.  Yesterday in the Texas primary Mitt Romney officially achieved the Republican nomination.  Oh, it has been a foregone conclusion for quite a while now, but yesterday the delegate count fell into line with the perceived realities and the convention parliamentarians can  declare this a done deal.

    So, does the press choose to acknowledge the extent of Romney;s accomplishment?  Well, or course not!  Why would they do that?  They have to talk about Mormonism.  It was offensive when Obama was nominated and everybody wanted to talk about his race – it was as if his blackness got nominated, not him.  And now, from some corners of the journalism universe, you would think it was the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints that was nominated, not Mitt Romney.

    Said the Washington Post:

    Mitt Romney’s nomination marks milestone for Mormon faith

    They even ran a graphic of the faith of prior presidents.  I have met enough Mormons in my life to know that while they are proud that “one of their own” accomplished something of this magnitude, but the church itself seeks something in a different realm.  The church, any church really, measures its accomplishments and milestones by a different metric.   There was a rash of stories yesterday, led by the Boston Globe, on Mormon reaction to the Romney candidacy:

    For Mormons, this is a potentially volatile moment. They are deeply proud that their faith’s most prominent adherent, Mitt Romney, is steps away from a presidential nomination and could push the faith further into the mainstream of American life. With these feelings, though, comes a nagging fear that their beliefs, often misunderstood, will again be subjected to scrutiny, even ridicule, on a national scale.

    I’m sorry, and I do not intend to step on the shoes of any Mormons that might read that and thank, “Yeah, I get that.”  But honestly, that’s just a cliche’ story line.  “With Jim Crow abolished, blacks still fear to tread in the white man’s world.”  How insulting is that?  It still defines the person by their color or their faith instead of their totality as a human being and a citizen.

    You see, these story lines are a sign that prejudice is very alive.  Yesterday Instapundit turned me on to a post from the ivory towers of academia:

    I’ve attended numerous scholarly conferences since that lunch where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics. And it seems perfectly acceptable to express this bias. Mormons are abnormal, outside the mainstream; everybody knows that. They don’t drink alcohol and coffee. Their women are suppressed. They don’t like the cross, and their most holy book seems made up. And there’s that multiple-wives thing. At one session involving a discussion of Utah’s history, several dismissive comments were spoken, rather blithely and without any sense of embarrassment. Belittling comments were made about Mormons’ abstemiousness, and there was a general negative undercurrent. The LDS Church was referred to as the Mormon Church, something many members object to. They don’t mind being called Mormons, but their church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church. At least some of the professors who were making these remarks knew that.

    Yes, Mormons do not embrace the cross as a symbol of Christianity, but it is because they consider it representing state-sanctioned execution and intense suffering. I regard it as a sacrifice on my behalf. Who’s right? Various Christian denominations think that during communion the wine and wafers actually are transformed into the body and blood of Christ – and over the centuries Christians have been derided as cannibals. I was raised to believe that the Eucharist represents the sacrifice of Jesus. Nothing more than different perspectives and beliefs.

    [...]

    When I first moved to Pocatello, I lived in a cul de sac and seven of my nine neighbors belonged to the LDS Church. Nobody tried to convert me. They invited me to church picnics – no pressure. My next-door neighbor spent nearly two hours one weekday morning (he was late to work) helping me restore my snow blower to life after five years in the humid South. Another helped flush and fix my sprinkler system. A third returned my dogs after they’d escaped. Several just showed up with family members to help me move in. A fourth one tossed me the keys to his Cadillac after the transmission in my Suburban disassembled on my driveway. “Bring it back when you don’t need it anymore,” he said.

    These are not the faces of intolerance and prejudice.

    No. Those faces are in the academic mirror.

    I was raised as a member of the United Church of Christ – the same denomination as President Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright – and my sister is an ordained minister in the denomination. I am now Episcopalian. An uncle and aunt and several of my first cousins are Mormons; the first was converted while stationed with the Marine Corps in Hawaii.

    Just why is it socially acceptable to denigrate and trivialize and insult a class of people as a class of people? They had a name for that sort of behavior and system in the South a few decades back. You may remember it. It was called Jim Crow.

    In commenting on this piece, Peter Lawler concluded:

    I’m no Mormon, and I couldn’t make it for long in Provo.    But maybe sophisticated Americans need some fact-based lessons in Mormon acceptance. Professors, in many ways, hate genuine diversity even more than most folks.

    I find myself forced to reflect on one of the reasons I chose a science as my field of academic work.  It was clear when I was in school that many fields had simply lost their moorings.  Devoid of the simple decency and standards that a common religious base gave to all, they were fields in which “consensus” trumped data, if there was any, and somehow ugly had become beautiful.  Fashion ruled where once standards had.  In science I would, at least then, still be judged on my work not which professor I agreed with – the data lead to the conclusion instead of my conclusion going out and seeking data.  Yes, there would be those that thought me a jerk, but in the face of data they would have to agree with me.  In other fields, the label was enough to grant the argument meaningless.

    Yet, is it surprising that academia goes this way?  I mean when Andrew Sullivan is considered a “legitimate” source of commentary?  Sullivan is to be dismissed becasue his body of work indicates an unwillingness to ever consider contra opinion or fact.  You see the problem with dismissiveness is that if there are those not worth discussing matters with, then they can return the favor.

    And finally some silliness.  God save of from public officials.

    It is made by Ogden’s Own Distillery in Utah, where the Mormon church is based. Its label carries the name and an image of five women, an apparent reference to polygamy, a practice abandoned by the church more than a century ago.

    Idaho State Liquor Division administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons who make up over a quarter of Idaho’s population.

    Regulators in Idaho notified Elite Spirits Distributor that the brand’s concept is “offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried,” according to a letter sent on Thursday.

    If any Mormon is truly offended by this, may I suggest you seek help.

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    A Gentleman Wins

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 09:18 pm, May 29th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Watching Mr. Romney bow out of the race in 2008 showed losing can elevate a man.

    His exit was well timed and in the doomed McCain campaign that followed he was a loyal worker. Many of us came to admire his prudence, his resolve, and his intellect. If you think “most improved” soccer players deserve five foot trophies, then Romney will seem cold to you. He is a mature man, a grownup in a nation of Peter Pans.  His heart has a steady beat not the spastic rhythms of the excitable man-child.

    Mitt Romney acts in a nation of actors and the pretenders often misunderstand the man. They play businessmen, governors, Olympic executives, husbands, fathers on television: Mr. Romney succeeded.

    When he lost, Mr. Romney learned from his errors. He reassembled a team and with prudence and without panic proceeded to scare away most of the “A-list” candidates. Bigotry was a barrier, but geniality and calm defeated it. When he faced B-lister after C-lister in the primaries, he scored when he had to so and dismantled their campaigns.

    He never got in the way of his opponents destroying themselves.

    Who is Mitt Romney?

    Mr. Romney is a gentleman and like all gentleman is not afraid of mixing it up if he must. But he does not attack for its own sake, but for the sake of the cause. What is his cause? Romney lives a love for free markets, republican values, faith, and family. He is no Lincoln, risen from poverty, but a Theodore Roosevelt, born to wealth and privilege, who made more of his chances than any of his peers.

    He is a man who used money and position to serve and not to be served.

    And now he is the Republican nominee for President, a title that eluded his father. Mr. Romney will win this fall with the same calm, methodical, and careful campaign he has run so far. It is a mildly Republican year . . . and Romney is a mild Republican. Not for him the false passion of the Internet troll. Not for him the pomposity of stadium orations. He is a good man, a decent man, a gentleman who has finally won.

    He will be the next President of the United States.

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    Never Do Your Own Dirty Work; and The White Horse Prophecy Returns

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:32 pm, May 28th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    There are a lot of people out there all worked up about the SuperPACs and their potential for mischief.  I, frankly, do not understand all the fuss.  The use of surrogates, cut-outs, and the deniable in politics is as old as politics itself.  William Safire once said that Nixon’s biggest issue was his loyalty.  When he should have let the Plumbers go completely and hang in the wind, he could not do it.  Interesting analysis – it is for others to judge its worth.

    SuperPACs are just a bit more above board form of this ancient political art.  I think maybe all the fuss is that those fussin’ are unhappy that it is a bit more above board.  Could that be because bringing such activities above board threatens to “out” the surrogates we do not know about – like maybe the press?

    These thoughts ran through my mind as I read some of the stuff that came out over the weekend.  NPR commented on Jonathon Chait saying that this campaign is just not going to be that nasty?!  As A.B. Stoddard said at The Hill:

    Mitt Romney, who is running a risk-averse campaign with a real shot at winning the presidency, has chosen not to talk about his religion. So far, the Obama campaign has stayed away from the topic — this week, when Bill Maher called Mormonism a cult, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said attacking Romney’s religion was “not fair game.”

    Yet no matter how the Obama campaign treats Romney’s Mormon religion, others will continue to keep it in the spotlight.

    And who might the “others” be?

    Well. let’s see, ABC News tries to explain Mormonism.  It is actually not a bad piece, but why write it? – it mostly serves to remind us that it is an issue.  Remember last Friday when I teed off on identity politics?  How about this headline from USAToday:

    Obama-Romney: African-American vs. Mormon

    Lovely, just lovely.  But the real topper is Frank Bruni @ NYTimes contending that Romney’s faith just does not carry the emotional cachet of Obama’s race:

    Axelrod’s words, meanwhile, are a reminder that more than three and a half years after Obama made history as the first black man elected to the presidency, he still presents more than a résumé and an agenda. He still personifies the hope, to borrow a noun that he has used, that we really might evolve into the colorblind, fair-minded country that many of us want. His own saga taps into the larger story of this country’s fitful, unfinished progress toward its stated ideal of equal opportunity.

    [...]

    Although Romney would be the first Mormon president, that milestone doesn’t fit into the country’s history in the same way. Although his religion, like Obama’s race, has made him an outsider in certain circumstances and at certain times, that’s not something he or his supporters really promote.

    Folks, I hate to tell you, that is the definition of nasty.  Not only is it identity politics, but it seeks to make one identity somehow better than the other.  So much for “colorblind.”

    OK – I may be exaggerating just a bit to say we do not know the press to be Obama surrogates, but what we can see here is that even if the campaign organization keep an air of civility – this is not going to be a civil campaign season.  The campaign is not even really underway and already we see the press dipping into the nastiest possible meme: identity vs. identity.  Here’s hoping the effect of this early coverage is inoculation instead of building intensity.  As we analyzed on Friday, identity politics makes war, not democracy.

    Lowell adds . . . The Return of White Horse!

    A Politico piece by Edward-Isaac Dovere appearing on Memorial Day seems to say, “We know the candidates don’t want to talk about the details of Romney’s Mormonism, but doggonit, we want to talk about it, so we will!”

    …Romney, for the most part, has steered clear of answering detailed questions about his religious beliefs—referring to “people of different faiths, like yours and mine” in his commencement address to the evangelical Liberty University is about as far as he’s gone in the 2012 campaign.

    That leaves journalists and other observers searching for clues, and the attention already going to Mormon views of the Constitution, which has percolated up from the blogs to the New York Times, provides a window into how this can play out on the campaign trail.

    (Emphasis added.) “Searching for clues?” About what? Aren’t we really talking about “searching for something juicy?”

    Readers of Dovere’s piece should be forgiven for thinking that is exactly what he is doing. He devotes the rest of his article to dredging up once again the White Horse Prophecy. For those unfamiliar with this bit of Mormon folklore, it relates to a prophecy that Joseph Smith allegedly made (but which was not documented until 50 years later), stating that someday the U.S. Constitution would “hang by a thread,” and Mormon elders would save it.

    We commented at length about the White Horse Prophecy here almost six years ago. More recently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself has said, in an official statement:

    The so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine.

    But it gets better. In response to Dovere’s inquiry Michael Purdy, a Church spokesman, said:

    The Church perspective is this: It’s not our doctrine, it’s not taught in our meetings, and as we’ve said repeatedly, it’s not relevant to who we are as a people….We’re certainly aware that there is a national (and perhaps international) conversation going on about the Church and its beliefs. We want to answer questions for those who have them but stay out of the politics.

    (Emphasis added.) But that is not the end.  Dovere quotes Mitt Romney himself from 2007:

    In 2007, at the outset of [Romney's] first White House run, he told the Salt Lake Tribune he hadn’t heard his name associated with the White Horse, and pointed out that the prophecy isn’t official doctrine. “There are a lot of things that are speculation and discussion by church members and even church leaders that aren’t official church doctrine. I don’t put that at the heart of my religious belief,” he told the paper.

    Whatever else might be said about Dovere’s piece, it is well-researched.  It’s just not persuasive.

    My own experience over 40 years of watching Mormons in politics agrees with the view of one well-known Utah pundit, La Varr Webb, whom Dover also quotes: “It becomes a joke, every time we have a prominent politician, Orrin Hatch or someone else, [he] is going to save the Constitution.”

    Wouldn’t all of that tell you enough to know this is a non-issue? Maybe, but it’s not enough for Dovere. You’ll have to read his Politico piece to see just how doggedly he clings to the issue.

    Which raises the only important question: Why does this matter? Dovere himself reports that Romney has said, over five years ago, what he thinks about the White Horse Prophecy; that the Church has said all it has to say; and that the Romney campaign has no further comment.

    So we are left with this:  A totally irrelevant and totally manufactured non-issue is being thrust into the public consciousness.

    What possible positive impact can such efforts have on the presidential campaign? To me the most likely results are distraction from the real issues (think of the economy and foreign policy); encouragement of further discussion about obscure, allegedly Mormon beliefs; and worst of all, a continuing emphasis on the identity politics John decries above.

    I don’t think it is realistic to expect the news media — especially the left-leaning segments — to drop the Mormonism issue.  As we’ve said before, Romney’s faith is pure catnip for them. Responsible analysts simply need to keep calling out the MSM on such irresponsible reporting so that at least the public has a decent chance of seeing it for what it is: a needless and possibly cynical distraction. We’ll do our best here to help get that that done.

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    For The Day

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:12 am, May 28th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

     

     

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    Memorial Day 2012: “Red” Irwin, Medal of Honor recipient

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:41 am, May 26th 2012     &mdash      6 Comments »

    This is not our usual topic around here, but I cannot let a Memorial Day go by without sharing one of the hundreds of stories of Medal of Honor recipients. The astonishing courage of Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin has reverberated in my own consciousness ever since I first learned of him years ago.

    The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in action as the radio operator of a B-29 airplane in the 52d Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group (VH), 314th Bombardment Wing, Twentieth Air Force, leading a group formation to attack Koriyama, Japan, on 12 April 1945. Staff Sergeant Erwin was charged with the additional duty of dropping phosphoresce smoke bombs to aid in assembling the group when the launching point was reached. Upon entering the assembly area, aircraft fire and enemy fighter opposition was encountered. Among the phosphoresce bombs launched by Staff Sergeant Erwin, one proved faulty, exploding in the launching chute, and shot back into the interior of the aircraft, striking him in the face. The burning phosphoresce obliterated his nose and completely blinded him. Smoke filled the plane, obscuring the vision of the pilot. Staff Sergeant Erwin realized that the aircraft and crew would be lost if the burning bomb remained in the plane. Without regard for his own safety, he picked it up and feeling his way, instinctively, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot’s window. He found the navigator’s table obstructing his passage. Grasping the burning bomb between his forearm and body, he unleashed the spring lock and raised the table. Struggling through the narrow passage he stumbled forward into the smoke-filled pilot’s compartment. Groping with his burning hands, he located the window and threw the bomb out. Completely aflame, he fell back upon the floor. The smoke cleared, the pilot, at 300 feet, pulled the plane out of its dive. Staff Sergeant Erwin’s gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty saved the lives of his comrades.

    General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 44, June 6, 1945

    The Military Times Hall of Valor site tells more of the story:

    Henry Erwin’s comrades did not believe he could survive his severe burns, and his Medal of Honor was one of the most quickly approved in history; it took just six days. Intent on seeing the Medal presented to him before he died, and with no Medal of Honor available in the area, a plane was dispatched to Hawaii where a Medal of Honor was on display in a glass case. Unable to find anyone to open the case, his comrades broke into it, pocketed the Medal, and flew it back to Erwin’s bedside for presentation. Incredibly, Erwin survived, endured 41 plastic surgeries, and retired after a career working for the Veterans Administration. He died in 2002.

    You can read about every Medal of Honor ever awarded at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website. Spend a little time there. If you’re like me, you’ll come away amazed, and perhaps with a lump in your throat.

    Where do we get such men? What makes them do such amazing, heart-breakingly wonderful things? I love telling people about “Red” Irwin. I love being a citizen of a country that produces men like him. As we all bite into Monday’s hamburgers and hot dogs, let’s take a moment to think about why we celebrate Memorial Day. Let’s remember our heroes.

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