Keep Religion out of the Election!

I am already sick and tired of people using religion as a cudgel in the 2008 election.

First Reverend Al Sharpton smugly talks about people who “really believe in God” defeating Mitt Romney.

Then evangelical Christian leader Bill Keller warns that “If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!” and “Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!” (thanks to JM Bell for the notice)

This is ludicrous. I wonder if Mo Udall (another proud liberal) and Mitt’s daddy had to face the same divisive religion baiting? The tenor of religion in politics seems to have gotten much more shrill in the past decade or so.

(then again, Kennedy had to give a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to reassure fears about a papist puppet president. Maybe things haven’t changed so much after all…)

Now I’m no fan of Romney. In fact, lets look at the flip side. Are the many within the LDS community who are enthusiastically embracing Romney simply because he is Mormon acting any better? Isn’t that pretty much the same thing in reverse that Sharpton and Keller have done: exclude others based on sectarian affiliation?

Religion shouldn’t be a factor in the presidential election (or any other election, for that matter). We are a secular nation guided by principles which include the separation of Church and State. I could care less whether that candidate is Mormon, conventional Christian, Catholic, Unitarian, Deist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Muslim, Shaman, Wiccan, or Atheist! Really the only things that matter are a candidate’s understanding of the law, their understanding of and belief in the principles upon which this nation was founded, and integrity (and yes, atheists can have just as much integrity and morality as religious folk!).

This is why I so appreciate religious organizations such as the Network of Spiritual Progressives, associations promoting moral and causes among people of all beliefs and faiths—including those who claim no faith but are willing to work for noble causes hand-in-hand with people of faith. That is how the U.S. should work.

I hope all interested parties will stop using religion divisively, and will concentrate instead on what these individuals and platforms represent for the entire nation.

17 Responses to “Keep Religion out of the Election!”

  1. healtheland Says:

    “We are a secular nation guided by principles which include the separation of Church and State.” The government using religion to evaluate political candidates violates the First Amendment. Political parties using religion to evaluate political candidates violates civil rights laws. But private citizens and groups using religion to evaluate political candidates is an exercise of religious AND political thought, speech, and expression that is specifically protected by that same First Amendment. What you are doing, sir, is demanding that people surrender their First Amendment rights in order to conform to your beliefs and interests. It is entirely appropriate for you to do so: the First Amendment gives you that right. But when people reject your views and act accordingly, they are using the same rights that you have. And this is a very important issue, because the very instant that you can get someone to give up their rights, the government will come and take it away. For that reason, I strenously vigorously object to anyone who says that Mitt Romney has no right to run for or be President based on his religion. But I will equally object to anyone who says that we cannot and should not oppose him based on it.

  2. JM Bell Says:

    Hey, Heal The Land, I see what you’re saying, and I see where you’re coming from, and I … respect? notice? worried by? … the fierceness with which you both worship and hate. You, sir, are truly a gigantic asshat, but, you’re really good at it. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

    I can just assume that this is the beginning of an evangelical, blog-based, anti-Mormon witch hunt that will annoy the hell out of the comments section of a lot of Utah blogs until November 2008.

    Oh, goody. I hope you stub your toes. Twice. A day.

  3. JM Bell Says:

    OH MY! Sorry about that, Heal The Land, I made the assumption that you and your disgusting ilk would let Romney through the primary. That was just silly.

    My bad, sorry about that.

  4. Thom Says:

    Not to distract from this lovely flame war, but I object to the implication that lots of Mormons are supporting Romney just because he’s Mormon. I think they’re excited by the fact that he’s Mormon, and maybe that can patch over some minor philosophical differences, but mostly they support him because his (current) politics are pretty much dead-on aligned with their Republican political views. Otherwise there would be a huge Mormon movement to draft Harry Reid, and I’m not having any success getting that started. To be honest, I think the religion issue is a huge, stinking, red herring that the Christian Right it using to try and maintain some semblance of relevance in this election. (I mean, seriously, would they rather have Giuliani?)

  5. Allie Says:

    I really think that MOST mormons who support Romney (not all do, of course) do so for the reason Thom stated. There are some however who support him because he is a mormon and they figure he must be okay, so they don’t have to do any further thinking or research on the issue.

    (I’m afraid I may have a family member who falls into that category, hopefully I am wrong about that…)

  6. Wordsfromhome Says:

    If you look at the polls you will see that there are not enough Mormons anywhere but Utah to get Romney through the primaries. So I am not too worried that he will upset my moderately liberal political agenda, and Utah, as usual will look a little silly as a one issue (religion, this time) state.

  7. healtheland Says:


    Flame war? I did not flame JM Bell at all. My comments were legal and moral arguments made in the most respectful fashion. JM Bell was the only one flaming with comments like: “You, sir, are truly a gigantic asshat” and “Oh, goody. I hope you stub your toes. Twice. A day.” and “OH MY! Sorry about that, Heal The Land, I made the assumption that you and your disgusting ilk would let Romney through the primary. That was just silly. My bad, sorry about that.”

    This is the hilarious thing: in this, JM Bell makes the statement that people have no right to disagree with him; that disagreeing with him on this matter is inherently immoral, evil, and dangerous. Now JM Bell does not realize that his opinion that a good decent honest person cannot disagree with him on legal and moral issues actually makes him no better than me, and indeed makes him worse (especially when you consider his level of discourse). I was saying that “choosing candidates based on religion is a right given to private citizens in the First Amendment.” So, what is JM Bell’s problem? With the First Amendment, or the people who exercise it? And what is even better (and worse for JM Bell) is that my argument is not even limited to religion. The First Amendment gives anyone the right to support – or deny support – for any one and for any reason. Remove religion as a right for someone to support or deny support for someone, and what is next? Gender? Race? Abortion? Views on the war? You could pick any of number of issues, and you will have people INSISTING that “this issue should have nothing to do with politics.” A few decades ago, some people on the far left were insisting that we had more important things to worry about than communism. Segregationists were aghast at people choosing leaders based on little things like their positions on laws to prevent lynchings. A couple of decades ago, Democrats were the ones demanding that voters not focus on the national debt and the growth of government, now Reagan – Bush Republicans are. And both parties have traded turns telling the other whether or not to be concerned over the loss of jobs to “globalization” and on the illegal immigration issue. Bottom line: if you allow other people to dictate to you which issues they can and cannot or should or should not vote on, they will choose them based on their own interests and not yours. So, you want “people like me” to “let Mitt Romney through the primary”? Why should we if we disagree with him? Would “people like you” let some Bob Jones type through the primary? Of course not. The only difference is that “people like you” think that you have every right to prevent a Bob Jones type from winning the primary based on your beliefs, but you seek to deny “people like me” that same privilege. The same freedoms that you desire for yourself you wish to take away from someone else. That is nothing but hypocrisy in its purest form, and you are so blinded by your self – righteousness and self – interest that you will forever refuse to acknowledge it.

  8. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thom and Allie, you may be right about why many of our LDS friends are excited about Romney. But I have seen more than a few of them who really have no idea who Romney is other than that he is LDS. They are shocked to find out that he has been pretty solidly pro-choice at one point, or that he has until recently been wary of the NRA. They have been rather disappointed that Huntsman endorses McCain over Romney, because Huntsman should support his brother in faith. Those things suggest to me that his support is primarily due to sectarian loyalty as opposed to any real understanding of Romney’s political philosophy.

    Thom, your rationale about the religious right attempting to stay relevant may explain Keller, but not Sharpton (or those Mormon supporters I mentioned above). And about Reid? He doesn’t count, silly! He, like me, is an apostate–just ask Jessica! Do you really think he would be a good presidential candidate, or was that part a joke?

    Heal the Land, you are correct that it is your right to oppose Romney’s decision based on his religion. But I’m not talking about _rights_ , I’m talking about _what is right_. And I’m hear to tell you that it is wrong to oppose a candidate strictly on the basis of his religion. You are incorrect in asserting that I (I can’t speak for Thom or JM Bell, but I suspect they would agree) would oppose Bob Jones based on his religion. I don’t care what his religion is–I would oppose him because I believe his politics are wrong, not because I believe his religion is wrong. Were Jim Wallis, also an Evangelical, to run, I would embrace him. I find it ethically repugnant and opposed to the principles of this nation to make religious affiliation a qualification for public office.

    That isn’t the case being made by Keller (and, based on your arguments, nor are you). Keller is arguing that simply because of his faith, Romney is unworthy. I have a hard time understanding how his religious denomination makes him so much worse a candidate than the other moderate (at least prior to their respective campaigns) candidates, such as Giuliani and McCain.

    For that matter, I would be interested to see if anybody could justify Kellers’ statement. Let us assume for the sake of argument that we Mormons have indeed been led astray from the true path of Christianity, and Romney is destined for Hell unless he converts to mainstream Christianity. How does it follow that his elevation to the Presidency would lead millions of Americans to Hell with him? If his agenda is essentially the same as any other conservative (or neo-con), why would his presidency cause mass damnation, while a mainstream Christian conservative president would not?

  9. Thom Says:

    Derek, I guess I’ve gotten spoiled living out here because I’ve heard exactly none of what you describe. I can imagine someone saying it, but I can’t recall having actually heard anyone voice such ideas. (Of course, we also have a little more experience with Romney the Politician.) But I stand by at least part of my original point. You state that you and Reid (and, by implication, I) are “apostate,” but that just illustrates my point. If Romney were a Democrat he’d be as popular in Utah as I imagine Reid is (especially lately).

    (HTL, I didn’t claim that you started the flame war. My point was simply that I wanted to address Derek’s argument, not yours nor JMB’s exuberant response.)

  10. Thom Says:

    Oh, and on Reid as a candidate, it was sort of a joke. (You know, “Ha, ha. Only serious.”) I am not now nor have I ever been the founder of a movement to get him to run. I don’t actually know his politics all that well. I “support him” as a presidential candidate for two reasons:

    1. In the unlikely event that he and Romney were to get through the primaries, it totally nullifies the “Mormon Question.”

    2. I really, really, really, really want to put a bumper sticker on my car that says, “Vote for the Other Mormon. Reid ’08,” drive to church on Sunday, park it in a prominent place, and watch the reaction from fellow congregants (Romneys among them). I want this so much that I nearly made my own Reid ’08 window sticker.

    Ultimately, it’s a fantasy for dramatic effect.

  11. Thom Says:

    (And to the Romneys’ credit, I don’t think it would phase any of them.)

  12. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thom, I don’t think it really proves your point that many Mormons (particularly those who follow politics only casually) would automatically disqualify anybody with a “D” attached to their name or the world “liberal” attached to their blog. Our association with the “l-word” negates our official membership in their eyes (see Jessica’s comments). The fact that a person’s religion would be a primary factor–instead of actual agenda and philosophy–in determining their support for one of the “right thinking” candidates is, while not nearly as corrosive as Kellers’ hateful rhetoric, still a concern.

  13. Derek Staffanson Says:

    BTW, Thom, you don’t fall into the apostate category with Reid and me. Being a registered Republican and pretty much smack dab in the metaphorical center, you’re merely wandering in the darkness, not a denizen of the great and spacious building.

    Given the way you’ve described many of your fellow Mormons there in Mass, I would imagine there would be much less reaction to such a bumper sticker in your ward than in rural or suburban Utah…

  14. Thom Says:

    Derek, first off, you’re absolutely right that I’d get a lot less reaction from the bumper sticker than I would out there. Or rather, a lot less negative reaction. Still, playing up the Mormon aspect in direct contest to our former stake president would probably still draw some fire.

    Secondly, while I am technically still a registered Republican, it’s laziness that’s kept me there. I expect to be officially off that list by the time the primaries role around. And, if you think I’m still in the “metaphorical center,” we need to talk more politics when you come out. (You are coming out, right?)

    Thirdly, who is this Jessica, whose comments I’m supposed to be reading? Seriously, I’m going to be really, really pissed if there are real members of the church who think my membership is literally invalid because I’m liberal.

  15. Emily Says:


    Regarding “Jessica” —

    Just go here:

    and here:

  16. Bigcasedaddy Says:

    Well, I had my Bishop interrogate me as to why I had every Democrat that was running in the ’04 elections on my front yard fence. I debated him a bit, but decided that my Recommend might be harder to get when it expired. (hahaha)

    I always have to point out to the ill-advised and uneducated brethren that think that they have to vote for a “Mormon” running for President, simply because he’s Mormon, that Senator Hatch is out there, and that he is not quite as evil as Satan, but more evil than Mark Hoffman. ;o)

    The bumper sticker I got a lot of flack for, read “God Bless the Democrats”. I like the other one that I still have posted, that has a picture of Bush next to the letters, “WTF?” It leaves it open to interpretation by the viewer.

  17. Allie Says:

    I know a former bishop who had signs for every democrat in the last election in his yard….


    (he didn’t have to interrogate himself thankfully)

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