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2008 potential presidential candidates:

Mitt Romney (R)

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Sponsored link.
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Comment:

Mitt Romney withdrew his candidacy on 2008-FEB-07 after a disappointing level of support after Super Tuesday when Republicans in 24 states and one territory voted.

His candidacy produced some interesting conflicts over his Mormon faith

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Former governor of Massachusetts: Mitt Romney:

Governor Romney is a major presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2008. His situation is unique because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- often called the Mormon Church.

The Mormon church discriminates, or has recently discriminated, on the basis of:

bulletGender: In common with the Southern Baptists, Roman Catholic Church and many other conservative religious groups, the Mormon church restricts ordination to men. The Church played a major role in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment.
bulletSexual orientation: The church is one of the main advocates for restrictions on the civil liberties of persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, including the prohibition of marriage by same-sex couples.
bulletRace: The church refused to ordain men who had even a single distant black ancestor until mid-1978. At that time, when the church was faced with a loss of their tax exempt status, they received what they believe to have been a revelation from God to end racism in the Church. Men of all races are now eligible for ordination. Women of all races remain excluded.

There is strident opposition to any Mormon candidate by some fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians 7 and even by one ex-Mormon who is currently an Atheist . Many evangelicals consider the LDS church to be a non-Christian cult, largely because of their unique beliefs concerning the nature of God and Jesus. Other religious conservatives are more accepting and would accept as president any Christian "man of faith" with conservative views against abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals, same-sex marriage, etc.

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Romney's decision about an emergency contraception bill:

During the gubernatorial campaign of 2002, Mitt Romney promised that he would not change state laws regarding abortion to either restrict or widen access to abortion.

In mid-2005, he was presented with a bill passed by the Massachusetts legislation which would have required emergency room physicians to offer emergency contraception (EC) to rape victims. It would also have made EC available in pharmacies without a prescription.

Emergency contraceptionis a politically hot item in the U.S.:

bullet Pro-choice advocates and the general medical community view EC as a contraceptive medication. It either inhibits ovulation or by prevents fertilization. Medical researchers once believed that EC was capable of preventing a pre-embryo from implanting in the wall of the uterus. However, further study revealed that this is an extremely remote possibility or impossible. They generally promote efforts to educate the public about the existence of EC and facilitating its distribution. They feel that the widespread availability and awareness of EC would drastically reduce the abortion rate.

bullet Pro-life advocates generally view EC as both a contraceptive and a potential abortifacient medication. They reject recent findings and believe that EC can prevent implantation; some teach that EC always prevents implantation. Thus, they regard EC as an abortifacient. They are often opposed to public education about EC and making it more accessible to rape victims and women who have had contraceptive failure. They acknowledge that EC could reduce the number of abortions in the country. However, they believe that EC would do this by killing pre-embryos -- an act that most pro-lifers consider the intentional murder of a pre-born human person.

Governor Romney (R) sided with pro-life movement in his conviction that personhood occurs at conception and that the pill can prevent implantation and induce an abortion. He wrote in the Boston Globe: "Signing such a measure into law would violate the promise I made to the citizens of Massachusetts when I ran for governor. I pledged that I would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it."

There were rumors at the time that Romney, a Republican, hopes to run for the presidency in 2008.

bulletConnie Mackey, spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a Fundamentalist Christian group, said that Romney's veto was " positive...I think that pro-life politics will be very important in the next election, as they proved to be in the last election."
bulletSen. Susan Fargo, a Democrat and Senate chairwoman of the Committee on Public Health, said: "His real motivation is his political ambitions, not the health and welfare of Massachusetts women." 1

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Romney's Mormon connection:

Mitt Romney has many factors in his favor as a potential Republican candidate for the presidency. Commentator Amy Sullivan writes:

"Romney has had a successful business career (he is known to most Americans as the man who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics). He comes from noble moderate Republican lineage (his father was governor of Michigan). He is attractive (the National Review sighed over his 'chiseled handsomeness'). And he grabbed national headlines—and the attention of social conservatives—by standing up to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage. Just as Democrats are always looking for a liberal nominee from a red state, Republicans dream about a candidate like Romney: a social conservative from the most cerulean of blue states who can please the [conservative] base while not scaring off moderates." 2

In addition to being a Republican, he is also a member in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) -- the largest among the 100 or so Mormon denominations. These two affiliations might cause a problem. Fundamentalist and other Evangelicals form a very large proportion of the power base of the Republican Party. Although Evangelicals and Mormons generally agree on many social issues -- opposition to abortion access, equal rights for gays and lesbians, same-sex marriage, equal rights for women, physician assisted suicide, pre-marital sex, and similar hot button items -- they differ significantly on theological matters. In fact, many Evangelicals feel that the Mormon beliefs about God, Jesus, heaven, hell, salvation and other topics are so far from conservative Protestant beliefs that they do not consider Mormons to be Christian; perhaps a Christian cult, but not a regular Christian denomination.

A 2008-JAN survey by Barna Research -- the largest and most respected religious polling group in the U.S. -- showed that:

bullet27% of American adults believe that Mormons are not Christians.
bullet32% of political conservatives agree.
bullet36% of adults under the age of 40 agree.
bullet37% of born-again adults agree.
bullet57% of Evangelicals agree.

George Barna commented:

"While that would not be a central factor in most people’s voting decision, it would be a sufficiently significant factor in the minds of millions of voters to affect the race if he proves to be the Republican nominee." 8

Certain personal factors and affiliations are viewed very negatively by many American adults. Only 49% would to vote for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate who happened to be an Atheist; 59% would vote for a homosexual. (1999 figures). According to Amy Sullivan, whereas 6% would not vote for a Jew and 4% would not vote for a Catholic, a full 17% "...would have qualms electing a Mormon to the White House." With the relatively close match that exists between the numbers of Republican and Democratic voters, a handicap of 17% could be insurmountable.

Some examples of the rejection of the Mormon movement by Fundamentalist Protestants and other Evangelicals are:

bulletAmy Sullivan writes that Mormons were specifically excluded from participation in the National Day of Prayer -- nationwide events organized by Evangelicals.
bulletAs John L. Smith head of Utah Mission—a group that tries to convert Mormons to Evangelical Christianity said: "Mormonism is either totally true or totally false. If it's true, every other religion in America is false."
bulletChuck Colson of Prison Fellowship said on his radio program: "I respect Mormons and work with them, but we can't gloss over our fundamental differences."
bulletRichard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) said: "Most evangelicals still regard Mormonism as a cult. That will shape, I'd imagine, their reactions to Romney as a candidate for the White House."

Sullivan writes that: "One longtime political observer put it this way: 'Publicly, it's not an issue. Privately, it's a big damn issue'." She suspects that Romney's political affiliation would not be critical in an election for president, but it would prevent him from being selected as the Republican candidate. She wrote: "...to put it in evangelical terms, it might be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination." 2

The level of suspicion and mistrust among fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians against Mormons appears to be quite high. In early 2007-FEB, The Way of the Master radio program on Sirius satellite radio asked its predominately fundamentalist and other evangelical listeners to phone in with their opinion on a Mormon presidential candidate. Of the twelve who responded, six said that they would definitely not vote for an otherwise acceptable candidate if he/she were a Mormon.

On 2007-FEB-17, Stephen Stomberg of the Washington Post wrote:

Romney, it seems, might be the first presidential candidate since Al Smith whose campaign suffers seriously because of his regular attendance at Sunday services. ... In a recent [Washington] Post-ABC News poll, 35 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is Mormon. ... The Mormons, critics say, are secretive and strange, and they are controlling more and more of your world. ... rank-and-file Mormons are bound to the pronouncements of church leaders in a way that Catholic parishioners are not -- indeed, rank-and-file Mormons often are the ones implementing church policy. ... To be Mormon is to be an exceptionally committed participant in the community. This demanding communitarian streak strikes some as cultish, leading to the fear that Romney would be a tool of the church's First Presidency. 3

Ten days later, the Washington Post/ABC News poll found that those less likely to vote for a Mormon had dropped to 29%. 4

Having Romney as the Republican party's candidate, could be very beneficial to the LDS. The media would be certain to delve into his religion. American adults would learn about the Mormon faith and probably lose some of their fear.

Additional polling information about a Mormon running for President and about the Mormon religion is elsewhere.

In early 2007-NOV, influential conservative leader Paul Weyrich endorsed Romney's candidacy.

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Al Sharpton accused of bigoted, religiously intolerant, anti-Mormon remark.

On 2007-MAY-09, Christopher Hitchens, Atheist and author of a recently released book: "God is not great: How religion poisons everything" 5 was debating with Rev. Al Sharpton at the New York Public Library in New York City. At one point, they discussed faith in politics, and the possibility of a Mormon president. Hitchens then said that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, supported segregation until the 1960s. Sharpton responded:

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."

His comment appears to imply that Mormons do not really believe in God.

Candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, responded from Iowa, saying:

"It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners. I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make."

When asked if he believed that Sharpton is a religious bigot, Romney said:

"I don't know Rev. Sharpton. I doubt he is personally such a thing. But the comment was a comment which could be described as a bigoted comment. Perhaps he didn't mean it that way, but the way it came out was inappropriate and wrong."

Sharpton said that his remarks were taken out of context. He issued a statement saying:

"In no way did I attack Mormons or the Mormon Church when I responded that other believers, not atheists, would vote against Mr. Romney for purely political reasons. ... [Mormons] don't believe in God the way I do, but, by definition, they believe in God."

Mormons definitely do believe in a God, but it is a deity who is very different from the Trinity believed in by most Christians. Mormons believe that God and Jesus Christ have physical bodies and are physically independent beings, although unified in purpose.

According to CNN:

"A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll last year found that 34 percent of Americans considered the LDS Church to be Christian, 35 percent did not and 31 percent were unsure. In a Gallup/USA Today poll in February, 72 percent of Americans said they would be comfortable voting for a Mormon for president, but 24 percent said they would not."

Republican strategist Ralph Reed commented on the controversy, saying:

"I think it's sad, honestly. I don't think there's any place in politics for religious intolerance in any of its ugly forms. ... And I think if Gov. Romney took it that way, then whatever Al Sharpton meant, then I think the best thing to do and the most healing thing to do, so that we can have an uplifting dialogue about faith in the political and civic process, is for Rev. Sharpton to apologize."

Democratic strategist James Carville said:

"The main point here is that Mormons have served this country honorably and with integrity for a long, long time, and ... it would be a very big mistake not to vote for someone based on their faith -- Mormon faith or any other faith."

Romney said

"Overwhelmingly, the people I talk to believe that we elect a person to lead the nation not based on what church they go to, but based on their values and their vision. I received very little comment of the nature coming from Rev. Sharpton." 6

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Rumors about endorsement of Romney by James Dobson

A very widespread rumor circulated during late 2008-JAN that James Dobson, founder of the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Focus had to issue a specific denial in an attempt to quell the rumor. They noted that Dobson had never endorsed a candidate for president except for endorsing George W Bush in 2004 for his second term when he was already president.

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Related essays:

bulletIs the Mormon Church a cult?
bulletThe LDS Restorationist movement, including Mormon denominations

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Theo Emery, "Mass. Emergency Contraception Bill Vetoed," Washington Post, 2005-JUL-26, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Amy Sullivan, "Mitt Romney's Evangelical Problem," Washington Monthly, 2005-SEP. Online at: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/
  3. Stephen Stromberg. "What Matters About Mitt Romney," Washington Post, 2007-FEB-17, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. "Washington Post-ABC News Poll," 2007-FEB-27, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  5. Christopher Hitchens, "God is not great: How religion poisons everything" Twelve publisher, 2007-MAY. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  6. "Romney: Sharpton remark on faith was bigoted," CNN, 2007-MAY-10, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  7. "Blogalogue: Who gets to define 'Christian'>," Beliefnet, 2007-JUN-28, at: http://blog.beliefnet.com/
  8. "Born Again Voters No Longer Favor Republican Candidates," The Barna Group, 2008-FEB-04, at: http://www.barna.org/

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Site navigation: Home page Religious information > Basic info > here

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Copyright © 2007 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-NOV
Latest update: 2010-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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