So Mitt Romney lost the presidential election and everyone is discussing why - what factors in American demographics and in his own campaign contributed most to his loss. One factor that I haven't seen a great deal of discussion of yet is Christian bigotry towards Mormons. Did it play a role and, if so, how much?
Mitt Romney Concedes
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Bigotry of any sort is tough to measure, but we can make some reasonable conclusions based on the numbers of people voting. So the real question will be how many conservative evangelicals were willing to vote for Mitt Romney despite decades of being told that Mormonism is a cult and a false religion.
Of course, it's not as though they had a lot of choices by the time of the election itself. Politically, Mitt Romney was their best bet. That's why the numbers of conservative evangelical voters picking Romney is important: if they refused, they had to be putting religious considerations over political considerations.
Even before the election, there were clear signs of real unhappiness with the prospect of voting for a Mormon:
"Romney has staked out issues that are aligned with evangelicals," said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the conservative nonprofit American Family Association. But, he added, Mr. Romney's faith may ultimately present a problem in the voting booth. "It's still an issue for some evangelicals and may influence their voting decision on Nov. 6," he said. "There are a number of evangelicals who will not vote for someone who doesn't adhere to orthodox Christianity." ...
Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, "It's sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Mr. Fischer said of the complicated relationship between evangelical Christians and Mormons that "evangelicals appreciate what Glenn Beck has done in refocusing attention on the values of our founding fathers," but "that doesn't mean evangelicals regard him as a Christian." ...
David Neff, editor in chief of Christianity Today, said that while evangelical Christians have no problem with Mormon politicians like Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Orrin D. Hatch of Utah, a Mormon president would "mainstream a religion they'd like to keep marginalized." ...
"There's a difference between a public figure like Glenn Beck and someone who could be the president of the United States," said John C. Green, the author of "The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections." "Many evangelicals believe this country was founded by Christian leaders. It's important that the person in the White House be positive about Christianity, if not a devout Christian himself."
Source: The New York Times
None of these views are particularly surprising. There's a great deal of bigotry among conservative evangelicals against... well, against just about everyone who doesn't belong to their narrow-minded clubs. The prospects of that changing don't strike me as being very good, certainly in the short term and probably even in the long term as well.
Do you suppose that any of them are familiar with the fact that the Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office -- including a test that excludes all of "orthodox Christians"? Probably, and I'm sure that they don't care about that. I suspect that many would have that bit crossed out of the Constitution if they could, which tells us something about what they really think about democracy and secular government.
The most interesting comment by far, though, probably comes from Franklin Graham:
In an interview, Franklin Graham said Mr. Romney's opposition to same-sex marriage trumped any concerns over his faith. "We have to remember we're not voting for a pastor in chief," he said.
This is exactly what defenders of church/state separation keep saying: politicians are not pastors and so should be elected based on their qualifications for serving in a secular, civil government and not based on whether they would be good religious leaders.
The problem is, though, that Franklin Graham does not have a reputation for being a defender of church/state separation. Is it coincidence that his father's organization deleted articles describing Mormonism as a cult right after Billy Graham had a personal meeting with Mitt Romney? I doubt it.
Does it seem likely that Franklin Graham adopted the above position only because it was politically convenient (i.e., it would help elect his preferred candidate) and will ignore it as soon as it might be applied to a Unitarian, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist? In fact that seems almost certain to me. This wouldn't be the first time that anti-secularists have used the language of secularism for political gain and it won't be the last.