Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some Issues Matter, and we have to be able to discuss them

Continuing my streak of mean posts …

The Utah LDS community has been a buzz with the presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney. This excitement is tinged with an undercurrent of sentiment that Mitt Romney is under prejudicial scrutiny because he is LDS.

Now, I have been extremely proud of the fact that one’s religious affiliation has not been a major issue in recent presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, it will be in the case of Mitt Romney. In my opinion, this is not due to prejudice against Mormons. It is due to the way that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young organized their religion.

The first reason for my belief is that democratic politics was a primary theme of The Book of Mormon. In this book, the Nephites met their untimely end because a political block rose and grabbed power, turning the kingdom to the dark side of the force. Some years after writing this book, it appears that Joseph Smith decided to use his church as a political block in his bid for high office. Joseph Smith chose the title president for the head of the Church as he was running for president, and wanted people to get used to the name.

The fact that the founder of the LDS Church used his church as a political block in a bid for the presidency makes the issue relevant for subsequent LDS candidates for president.

Brigham Young actually left the United States with the hope of establishing a new Empire of Deseret. The US Army stomped on that idea. However, Brother Brigham was able to use his position of President of the LDS Church to obtain the governorship of the State of Utah.

The history of the LDS Church working as a voting block makes Mitt Romney’s membership in the LDS Church an issue. To the extent that the LDS community behaves as a voting block, it will continue to be an important issue that needs to be debated. The existence of this debate is not prejudice against Mormons. Democracies need to worry about the undo influence of any voting block. Again, this is a primary theme of the Book of Mormon!

Personally, I think the Republican Party needs to worry about coming under the control of a voting block. In a two party system, a party is a temporary union of people of different views. The Reagan victory was largely due to a union between Classical Liberals and the Religious Right. In recent years, the Religious Right has been driving the classical liberals out of the Republican Party. I know several people who were active in Republican Politics in Colorado and California who claim to have been driven out of the Republican party by the religious right. It seems to me that the Republican Party needs to have an internal debate about whether or not they want to keep driving all of the classical liberals out of the party. That means taht there has to be talk in this election about the role religion plays in the Republican party.

Mitt Romney's run for the presidency is forcing a debate that needs to take place. I applaud people who engage in the debate in a civil manner.

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