Watchwoman on the Wall

A religious test for Mitt Romney

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, UT

Things being what they are these days, and with Mitt Romney currently the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, it’s not too surprising that objections to the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormon religion would resurface, particularly in Iowa, where evangelicals wield so much influence in the Republican caucuses.

Romney was the target of both left- and right-wing Mormon-bashing in the last presidential campaign, proving once again that vulgar religious prejudice is one of the few areas of our national life where true bipartisanship still prevails. Even so, last week’s attack on Romney by the influential evangelical publisher and writer Warren Cole Smith was notable — not only because Smith is closely aligned with religious factions that recently fueled the campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had overturned a ban on same-sex marriage but also because he argued that it doesn’t matter what Romney believes on social or economic issues.

In an online essay aimed at fellow evangelicals, Smith argued that “you can’t have it ‘both ways’ when it comes to Romney’s faith. You can’t say that his religious beliefs don’t matter, but his ‘values’ do. The Christian worldview teaches that there is a short tether binding beliefs to the values and behaviors that flow from them. If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually — but inevitably — be warped…. There’s a lot about Romney I like. He seems to be a competent manager; he’s a fiscal conservative and his positions on some social issues — while problematic in the past — seemed to have genuinely changed. But certain qualifications make a candidate unfit to serve. I believe a candidate who either by intent or effect promotes a false and dangerous religion is unfit to serve.”

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