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Washington Post: Media wrestles with whether to call Mormons a “cult”

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In the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” section, Michael Otterson observes:

As part of the rhetorical warfare that has come to characterize modern American political discourse, it was only a matter of time before someone once again used the term “cult” to describe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We saw it often during the 2008 presidential campaign. It surfaced more recently when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) was fighting to retain his Nevada Senate seat (his opponent’s pastor accused him of belonging to a cult that “pretends to embrace Christianity”).

And in the past few weeks the term has appeared in articles in the Economist and the New York Times, and also in other newspapers that carry less intellectual heft.

The British Independent, for instance, was taken with the thought that if you Google “Mormon” and “cult,” you get 2.7 million hits.

Few journalists use the term themselves, of course, as an adjective of choice. The usual method is to apportion the blame for the use of this highly pejorative label to “many evangelicals” or “some Christians” as a means of explaining how these groups might choose to vote, and to point out what a liability this is for any Latter-day Saint candidate.

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