Surely one among many realities Mitt Romney hoped he could keep on the down low regarding his tax returns is how much tax-exempt money he donated to the Mormon Church.
As it turns out, he gave almost as much of the nearly $43 million dollars he made in 2010 and 2011 to the highly politically active Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- at the center of a firestorm since 2008 for its backing of Prop 8 in California -- as he paid in taxes: roughly 10 percent vs. 13.9 percent.
It's not that anyone doubted Romney's donations to his church (Mormons in good standing are expected to give 10 percent of their income in tithing each year, approximately the amount Romney has donated), but the release of his 2010 tax return and 2011 estimated taxes shines a bright light on his strong commitment to the LDS church, something that exacerbates tensions on both the left and the right. He served as a bishop in the church, which helped open doors for him in business and which he's rewarded, as well, helping the church make millions of dollars, including through Bain Capital.
For evangelicals leaders, some of whom have been attacking him on the campaign trail, it's just another reminder that he is helping to further a church they see as a threat to traditional Christianity.
And for moderates it's a reminder that Romney is a strong adherent -- morally and financially -- to a church that is on a moral crusade against women's right to choose and, most prominently in recent years, against gay rights. The Mormon Church was the focus of protests across the country after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning marriage for gays and lesbians. Church leaders had urged members to give money to the cause, and some estimates put that amount at over $20 million. The church itself gave over $180,000 to help pass Prop 8. The church was fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for not reporting its numerous financial contributions to the cause.
Romney is on record supporting a federal marriage amendment banning marriages for gays and lesbians in the Constitution, and opposes gay marriage. So his own beliefs are not out of line with those of the Mormon Church. But he's also claimed he doesn't believe in discrimination against gays and has tried to couch himself as more moderate than Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. He refused to sign the Family Leader's controversial marriage pledge (though he did sign the National Organization for Marriage's pledge).
But the Mormon Church has not been subtle about its gay bashing, politically organizing against gay rights for decades, for years promoting its own "pray away the gay" program. Up until the 1970s the LDS church was even using brutal electroshock therapy to supposedly "cure" gays.
In addition to much else, the release of the tax returns emphasizes that Romney is completely down with the religious crusade of a well-funded organization hellbent on stopping the LGBT rights movement in America.
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