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January 09, 2007


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I guess I'm missing the part where this is a difficult issue... it seems to me that, on some level, we should be glad that Romney is so open about his religion and the fact that his religious beliefs inform his political beliefs so strongly. This gives the rest of us an easy way to find out what he REALLY thinks and intends to do, should he be elected (I shudder at the thought), regardless of whatever soundbites trickle down to us.

If we think it's bad that he's religious, that could be a problem (a candidate's religiosity or irreligiosity, standing alone, should not influence our determination of his or her fitness for office). But if, due to his own publicizing of his religious beliefs, we're able to get a better sense of his politics -- and we don't like his politics -- well... what's the problem? We're not voting against him because he's Mormon. We're voting against him because he has some screwed-up POLITICAL views. He just made it easier for us to find out what those political views really are.

I just don't see the problem.


"The candidate of the religious right."

I can't believe we are talking about American politics here.

As Cynic points out, his church informs his politics, thus what's wrong with looking at his church, the loony morooni church of the magical golden dinnerware to see what kind of politics were going to get.


Perhaps he can use the seer stones to make policy.

I'm going to go watch the Southpark on Mormonism tonight. It was funny. Nothing is so funny as silly organized religion except maybe another organized religion that layers another level of nonsense on top of a previous organized religion full of nonsense.

"I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiratation of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God."
[Albert Einstein, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press, p.66]


I agree with Garth and Cynic.

Just look at past experience. In 2004 evaluating Lieberman's politics was so much easier once I knew he was a dreidel tosser.

And today, we all can guess Giuliani's politics knowing he's a Nazrene flesh and blood muncher.

And, God forbid, should we ever face the prospect of a turban-wearing, beard-wearing, bomb chucker candidate, well, we can chase his crazy politics right out of town.

So, throw me in with Garth and Cynic. We don't need no member of some "loony morooni church of the magical golden dinnerware" running this here country. No sir.


Seer stones . . . LOL LAK. How do you come up with this stuff?

If a Muslim were president, would he end his addresses with Allahu Akbar, or would he give the traditional "God Bless America" before detonating the C4 under his suit?

If a Jew were pressident would he leave an open seat in his cabinet for Elijah?

If a Pentecostal were president, would we finally see the gift of tongues in a State of the Union Address?

Man, we could go on all day like this. Funny, funny, funny, stuff.


BAC... interesting sarcasm.

Just to be clear, my point is not that we should turn into a bunch of religious or anti-religious bigots. Just that where, as here, a candidate explicitly says that his religious views inform his politics, it's no more wrong to inquire into those views than it would be to inquire into his past if, say, he says that his favorite economics professor taught him everything he thinks about the economy, or something.



Even after backtracking from the outright bigotry in your first post, your point still seems weak. If a position stakes out a political position, you can evaluate that position on its merits. Why does it matter whether it was inspired by his economics professor or his religion?


BAC, I get your point, but with all due respect, there is no "reform" version of Mormonism, like there is in Judaism. Correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, reform Jews are not fundamentalists, and do not believe the word of the Bible/Torah is the literal word of God. Now an orthodox President might be a different story.

Do you disagree that the level of fundamentalism varies by religious group? And that Mormons are some of the most rigid fundamentalists around?

Doesn't the the second tier nature of the religion make it any more problematic in your mind?

When Smith lost the first translation, why couldn't he reproduce it again word for word? What is that story?

How about a secular humanist for President?

Joan A. Conway

I had some experience with Mormans, while living in California for 6+ years.

I found out that they sometimes marry an older woman, and sucker up to the professors, dressing similarly and adopting the same habits to impress their superiors.

I found the apple polishing conduct lacked a certain degree of independence of mind, character, and integrity, while marrying an older woman in order to get an education appears on the surface to be a dishonest motive, much like a female student marries a pharmacist in order to get her diploma.

The marriage-by-confenvenience route through academia doesn't fool other students about the pressures brought to bear that made these choices.

But the Morman practice ranges from being tolerant to intolerant of the inroad women have achieved in the past decades, and I have suspicions that it isn't a sentimental journey of what once was in the American political environment with Senatory Hilary Clinton's potential run for office of the Presidency in 2008.

So, therefore, I see twin evils in a Morman candidate, who may not have the ways and means to be independent in Washington D.C., and obstruct legislation in an already Congress plagued with anti-federal attitudes and actions.

I would not vote for a candidate that runs on religion.

I will not vote for a candidate that is a Morman. I will not vote for a Republican again in my life time, unless it be John McCain, or John Glenn, or a John Unheard of that endorses the Civil Rights agenda as it was intended to be without erosion from the Budget Cuts past Presidents have used to undermine it.

However, if we suffer from another attack by terrorists all declarations are off the table.



I am not sure how you are using "fundamentalist." I will assume that you mean it as someone who strictly interprets and adheres to sacred texts (whether it be the Bible, Torah, or Book of Mormon).

We could quibble about whether there is a "reform" version of Mormonism (it could be argued that the rejection of polygamy essentially created a "reform" version), but more importantly I disagree with your main point.

Assuming that a "fundamentalist" would hold certain beliefs is simply bigotry. We should evaulate the actual political positions a person holds, and not shadow box with strawman stereotypes based on ill considered prejudices.


Well said Joan!

Those dastardly Mormons and their "marriage-by-confenvenience route through academia."

saul levmore

I am attracted to the idea of the post, and one or two of the comments, that we should welcome rather than cringe in the face of candidates who wear their religions on their sleeves. The old view, we might say, is that these things should be private or separate, much as European and Asian politicians are much less inclined ot appeal to voters by parading their families and affections in public. But the new view is that just as we look at the political party affiliation of a candidate to gain insight into likely actions, we should welcome information about religion and family because these might tell about the candidate's future actions or true opinions. Anyone can say that he is anti- or pro-gay marriage, for example, but voters might find the claim more believable if it is made by someone who seems to put great energy into a church that is very supportive or very opposed to such marriages, as the case may be. Religion is not a cheap signal, as game theorists would say.

There is an associated topic of privacy. If a candidate parades family or religion when it is convenient, we find it more appropriate to inquire further into those affiliations. It may be that if we take these signals seriously, we will feel more free to poke around into (previously private religious or familial) information about candidates who do not make these matters public, but that is a different subject.


Why is assuming that a "fundamentalist" would hold certain belief bigotry? I don't understand at all.

In a case where someone says their policies are going to mirror their religious beliefs, and that person is a fundamentalist, it is hardly bigotry, rather it is an admission and is truth.

Thus if Pat Robertson runs for President, we can be sure he would attampt to outlaw abortion, would attempt to challenge the limits of the establishment clause, would make divorce and pornography hardere to come by, would implement draconian drug laws, would role back civil rights for women, etc.

How is this bigotry? It is obvious and true?

And BAC, can you see how anyone who would like to blur the line between politics and religion is somehow running afoul of the intention of the establishment clause. i know you religious types like to read it as narrowly and as literally as possible, but their is a intent and spirit to the establishment clause which says something to the effect of: "unles you can justify your policy decisions based on reason and logical argument, keep your fucking religion out of all our laws."

But seriously, what is the story of the translation going missing, Smith being asked to trasnalte the tablest again with the seer stones, and not being able to do it? How did he spin that? God wanted him not to do the same translation or something?


lol, BAC. Intentionally misinterpret much?

The point of my comments, which should be clear to anyone with a passing score in reading comprehension, was that when the candidate, OF HIS OR HER OWN FREE WILL, explicitly bases his or her political positions on a given philosophy, there is nothing troubling about discovering what that philosophy entails.

My distaste for Romney has nothing to do with his personal religion and everything to do with his horrendous politics. If he didn't come out and say "my Mormonism drives my politics" (or something similar) then I would agree it's inappropriate to use Mormon beliefs as a proxy for political ones. In this case, I am not doing this; HE is.

If, on the other hand, pundits start clanging the bells about a candidate emerging from a Southern Baptist church on Sunday morning, when that candidate has not explicitly positioned his or her political beliefs on Southern Baptism, it would be inappropriate to bring up his or her religious beliefs in political discussions.

This distinction is obvious. Stop twisting my words.


Prof. Levmore,

I agree that religion may not be a cheap signal, but it could be grossly inaccurate.

For example, Harry Reid and Mitt Romney share a religion, but share very little politically.

Strangely, despite his political prominence, Mr. Reid he has not experienced the type of "what lies beneath" criticism as in Linker's article on Romney. This seems to contradict the "signaling" theory because, if anything, Mr. Reid's association with a conservative religion should have created a more critical analysis of his allegiance to the more liberal political party.

The Linker article seems more focused on burdening Mr. Romney with widely held religious stereotype rather than informing voters on his "true opinions."

Joan A. Conway

All those English and Spelling purist need to find solance in correcting my mistakes, of which there have been a few, since I have read many books that prove the mighty fall hard to the same want of accuracy.

When I do these posts I do them at the public library with a time limit, fresh young men and women bumping into me, and noisy neighbors making such sounds as to doubt it can be made by another person.

Of course, I find excuses in my conduct, but then I am not endorsing any religion other than "do onto others as you would have done onto you."


Well BAC, I think the signalling becomes a lot stronger when the candidate openly admits he'll be teh vocie of the religious right, and that he'll be basing his policies on his religious beliefs. Don't you? thus the difference between Harry Reid and Mit.


So does Mitt think black people are cursed and sub-human? Or did he abandon that view of the Mormon church when the Church did, what 20 or 30 years ago? I'd be curious to know how that will go over on the South Side.


Cynic and LAK,

You are both making the tremendous assumption that Mr. Romney's "policies are going to mirror [his] religious beliefs."

The facts show the opposite. For example, Governor Romeny endorsed Roe v. Wade and refused to interfere with a woman's right to choose.

When you assume that a person will act a certain way based on a religious stereotype, you are engaging in religious bigotry.


Professor Garnett,
Thank you for your thoughtful post. You mention that writers like Linker have an obligation to get the facts right about the religious traditions and teachings they address. Unfortunately, Linker's article fails to meet this obligation. One of the main problems with Linker's article is his failure to accurately grasp the role of prophetic authority in the Mormon church. This is certainly not an easy topic to understand, and requires more than a passing familiarity with Mormonism to fully grasp. Rather than attempt to establish his argument with factual support, Linker merely assumes the foundation of his argument. The problem is that only Mormons or persons that are very familiar with Mormon doctrine are able to recognize Linker's faulty assumption.

For a reply to Linker's article that discusses this idea, see Richard Bushman's response: http://www.tnr.com/user/nregi.mhtml?i=w070101&s=bushman010307
Richard Bushman is a professor of history at Columbia University.


I'm a "Mormon."I'm curious if any of you have read or heard the following from a BBC broadcast from about two weeks ago--


I'd be interested if such significantly moves any of your present stances on 'Mormonism' much at all.

I find it interesting how much, or rather how little, knowledge is needed in so much of your analysis to dismiss anyone that professes a belief in an open dogma from having enough points in common with your view to be an acceptable candidate for public office. Sure there's the ready happiness, here expressed, of the open nature of the professed dogma and the correlating 'help' it's perceived to be. But many of you seem to stick to the very phenomena/dogma that Bushman presents, that being the utilization of the label of 'fanaticism' as an end all for any need for closer inspection. As if you've all adopted the dogma of anti-dogmatism. Even those who claim to love the added aid the construct of a religion is to making choices about political office demonstrates a minimalist approach in terms of analytic effort.

The ultimate irony of this being made manifest in Joan's conclusions from her brief brushes with 'Mormons.' She labels them with pretty condemning labels and generalizations

"…dressing similarly and adopting the same habits to impress their superiors.

I found the apple polishing conduct lacked a certain degree of independence of mind, character, and integrity, while marrying an older woman in order to get an education appears on the surface to be a dishonest motive, much like a female student marries a pharmacist in order to get her diploma."

The oddity is that I, in my experiences in the backyard of UC Santa Cruz and in the San Jose Valley, I found similar tendancies among the progresive and intellectual trusts as those described by Joan, the only differences really being variations on an accepted theme. Where Joan witnessed conforming dress there was to be found a conformaty to an appearance of non-conformity. Point being that if I were to do what was done to the mean of those in my faith, (speaking here of the noun, of course) as viewed by Joan during her brief tenure among some of my faith, to those among whom I was a missionary It would not be difficult to paint a picture as equally or more unflattering of various more 'progresive' or 'intellectually adept' groups that inhabit the various corners of the Bay area. And I could do this merely using the standards of judgement applied here. Not even needing to come close to the perspective formed through the 'irrational' lens of the doctrines of the faith I ascribe to to come to as egregious condemnations, the only differences being in variety rather than species of the problems.

In quintecsential ways many here are practicing (even if unwittingly) the very irrational and conformist, at their core, actions that they claim to be applied to those who openly ascribe to dogmas of the religious kind.

I'm trying to understand how it is that people, any people, can be so ready to dismiss a person for laying bare the subjectivity inherent in all of us. You all sound intelligent, certainly you must all realize the ultimate impotence of human's to apply correctly logical paradigms that massively out flank their finite minds. Why then do we pretend that some are inherently more subjected to subjectivity when we know little of those we compare oursleves to and run into the same problem of the ultimate efficacy of the slightest bit of subjectivity to sufficiently block our capacities to be certain we are even efectively "more" correct than someone else as to things regarding public pollicy?


"When you assume that a person will act a certain way based on a religious stereotype, you are engaging in religious bigotry."

Oh my God BAC. Did you even READ what we WROTE????????

Romney HIMSELF has said his political views come from his religious beliefs. If you wanna call Romney a liar, fine, but his disingenuity does not make me or LAK a bigot.

Jesus H. Christ.


Cynic, rather than capital letters and extra question marks, how about a real quote or example.

I gave you the example of his position on abortion which Governor where he adopted a political policy that was apparently contrary to his religious beliefs, to which you provided no response.


Here´s another view from a Mormon. Or better said, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, just in case anyone doesn´t know the actual name of the church.

I agree with HiveRadical that Joan´s attacks are easily dismissed. Mormons want to be perfect, and as a result, work very hard to get good grades at university, but that´s not really that much different than most students at high caliber universities.

As for the marriage of older women, I´m inclined to point out that 1) who the hell are you to question others´ marriages? Do you know these people´s intentions, really? The fact that your first inclination is to criticize, I sincerely doubt that you´ve taken the time to get to know those people well enough to pass any sort of judgement. 2) This is very rare. I myself, having lived among Mormons my ENTIRE LIFE, have only seen men marrying older women a handful of times. And those that have done so did not do so for educational purposes. So far as I can tell, they loved each other and wanted to get married. That´s all. Not so contrived and self interested as Joan would have us believe. 3) What exactly is the difference between a man marrying an older woman, and a woman marrying an older man? Because the latter is the case in the overwhelming majority of marriages, not only in the Mormon church, but also across the country and the world.



I find it very interesting, though unsurprising, that Mitt Romney would say that his religion informs his politics. I think that we´re seeing a couple of things in that statement. First, I really do think that there is probably a distinction between "informing" one´s politics, and, say, "controlling" one´s politics. For example, though Mitt Romney was probably a missionary at some point, I doubt that his presidential agenda is going to consist of federal funding for Book of Mormon printing or to reinstate prohibition.

When he says that his religion informs his politics, there are also some different things this could mean. For example, he could be referring to the idea that one needs to work hard and "strive for perfection" (to use a cliché that kind of makes me grit my teeth). Or it could refer to the part of our religion that goes contrary to abortion, homosexual marriages...etc. Or it could refer to the idea that we should not condemn others, we should obey the laws, we should work with others and not "judge" them, regardless of their political/religious beliefs...etc. Or it could be a old testament kill ´em all, kind of philosophy. Or a "love your neighbor," "blessed are the humble," "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" kind of idea.

My guess is that his answer would be all of the above. But there are undoubtedly times when one of those philosophies takes priority over the others.

I´d say that the only way to figure this out is to look at his history of decision making, and try to piece together what he´s done in the past in certain situations.

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