The Republican Party in the United States has a very serious potential presidential candidate in former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This is a man who has been incredibly successful in both his private business enterprises and in his public service.
There is however one catch: Mr. Romney is a Mormon. It seems that most Americans know very little about The Church of LDS and its beliefs.
Nonetheless according to a poll conducted in June of last year by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg 35 percent of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President.
This would be a considerable handicap for Romney and if this figure does not change it would almost certainly cost him the presidency. But is this fair? Should religion really be a deciding factor in the decision on who to vote for in a political race? In my view the answer is yes. It should be a central part of a voter’s decision in the ballot box.
Were the average American to study Mormonism they would find some strange beliefs but then the same could be said of any religion. All religions talk about the supernatural and could be seen by empiricists as strange. I therefore buy into the argument that if a Mormon should be barred from becoming president so should members of all religions.
Religious beliefs affect political views
Nonetheless it is undeniable that religion and beliefs have a major effect on the way people view life and the major decisions they make.
The proponents of the argument which states that one can compartmentalize one’s religious beliefs and not allow them to intervene with political views are either dishonest, schizophrenic or not real believers.
Just as it would be absurd to say that the secular views of an atheist would not affect their political opinions it is ludicrous to believe that a candidate’s religion does not have an effect on their politics.
True belief is not just lip service. In the eyes of the believer it is truth. Just as empirical reality demands action and, for example, compels an ill person to get medical attention, similarly a person who truly believes that the Bible is the word of God will act accordingly.
John F. Kennedy famously said, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me." In essence JFK was saying that his church and his politics were two separate things with no effect on each other.
Saying this is equivalent to renouncing a real belief in ones religion. It is, therefore more honest for a member of a religion running for office to say: “I was born into my religion but no longer really believe in its essential values,” than to say: “My religion has no influence on my politics.” However to believe that the true religious beliefs of a political contender will not impact on their policy decisions is to be fooled.
Clearly, therefore, a candidate’s religion or lack thereof is an important indicator of who the person is and what their real views are and honesty with the electorate in this respect is vital. And to be frank I am thrilled with the prospect of a Mormon in the White House—that is if Romney really still is a Mormon.
The reason is simple. In common with Judaism, Mormonism is a tolerant religion and the eleventh of their Articles of Faith states: "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
Thus, a true Mormon does not believe in a 'one size fits all' religion where all unbelievers are condemned to hell and damnation or to a life as second class citizens. Like Judaism the Mormon Church of LDS respects the mode of worship of others different to their own. They would thus never compel others to accept their religion.
In essence this ideology makes me extremely comfortable with a president of Mormon faith. For the Mormon the separation of Church and State which allows freedom of religion for all is inbuilt into their doctrine.
Thus, the fear some on the Left have regarding George W. Bush and his Evangelical supporters that he is trying to break down the separation between church and state and Christianize America would not apply to Romney. So Romney’s Mormonism is a crucial factor and logically one which should add to his support not detract from it.