The sources of generosity: 6-25-12
Violent attacks on religion: 6-27-12

Americans' anti-Mormon bias: 6-26-12

What is it about Mormonism that causes a significant portion of non-Mormons to react to its adherents as if they were somehow profoundly untrustworthy and even weird?

MormonsI'm not sure, but a recent Gallup Poll shows that way back in 1967, when Mitt Romney's father was thinking of running for president, 17 percent of Americans said they would never vote for a Mormon.

Now, 45 years later, when George Romney's son is the presumptive Republican nominee, that figure is up a tick to 18 percent.

Analysts suggest that this could spell growing trouble for Romney because at the moment only about 57 percent of Americans (believe it or not) know that Romney is a Mormon. As the campaign moves forward and more people begin to identify his religious affiliation, that 18 percent no-Mormon vote is likely to become even more important.

I am not a Mormon. As a Protestant Christian, I naturally have theological differences with Mormonism, a made-in-America religion if there ever was one. But in my personal experience most Mormon Americans are thoughtful, patriotic citizens.

I worked with a Mormon, Cliff Smith, in my first post-college newspaper job in Rochester, N.Y., not far from Palmyra, N.Y., where in the 1820s Joseph Smith is said to have discovered on Hill Cumorah the tablets that, upon translation, became the Book of Mormon. I'd have trusted Cliff with my life. What a sweet, gentle family man.

I certainly know that one Mormon (I've known many more) doesn't stand for all Mormons. And I know that there are aspects of the Mormon story as described in the Book of Mormon that I find hard to accept.

But in this country there is, according to our Constitution, no religious test for public office. What matters is the candidate's character, experience and proposed policies, some of which may have been developed in response to religious beliefs.

Which is why I find the idea that nearly one-fifth of Americans would say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon to be an admission of shameful prejudice, especially because I'm betting that a significant proportion of those folks would describe themselves as strict constructionists when it comes to the Constitution they denegrate by their bias.

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Pope Benedict XVI is worried enough about the Vatileaks scandal that he's meeting with cardinals to get advice and he's hired a Fox News reporter as a communications adviser. Of course, another way for religious leaders to handle leaks is never to have anything embarrassing in your files. How's that for a concept?


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