In 2008, Will It Be Mormon in America?

Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney could become the first Mormon in the White House.

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Like most churches, it participates in law cases raising religious liberty issues, often partnering with religious bodies of diverse beliefs. Here, in a friend-of-the court capacity, the church seeks to protect its ability to proselytize and to hire church officials and employees.

The church does occasionally speak out on what it calls "matters of principle." In the 1970s and early 1980s, it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. More recently it has affirmed the traditional definition of marriage and contributed to referendum drives banning same-sex unions. The church seems to distinguish ballot-measures from elections for office, seeing only the latter as partisan. In any case, the church's efforts in these respects have a common theme--protection of the traditional family.

Policy and Faith

Romney hasn't felt compelled to regard the church's guidance to its members as sufficient in matters of public policy. He emphasizes his independence in assessing issues. He points out that he doesn't drink, consistent with what his church advises, yet he signed a bill permitting liquor sales on Sunday because "there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol if you do it properly and responsibly."

Romney on abortion and gay marriage
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_Related Features
  • The Mormon Moment
  • Mormonism vs. Traditional Christianity
  • An Evangelical Apologizes to Mormons
  • On a more momentous issue, abortion, Romney told voters when he ran for the Senate in Massachusetts in 1994 that he was personally opposed to abortion but that abortion should be "safe and legal in this country," and that "we should sustain and support" Roe v. Wade because it had been law for 20 years. When Romney ran for governor in 2002, he maintained his position on Roe, but also indicated that he didn't want to be known as "pro-choice." He promised voters that he would honor a "moratorium," meaning he would not try to move state abortion law in one direction or the other, and he's kept his word.

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