With Rick Perry's bid for the presidency getting into trouble every day, with Gov. Christie unlikely to jump in, plus a host of second string pretenders, it looks more and more likely that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee in 2012.
Now, I wouldn't vote for him. His positions on the role of government in American life, on business, on immigration, on taxes, are all in opposition to what I believe in. So be it.
One factor that gives me no qualms, however, is his Mormon religion. I could care less. That's not the case, however, for many Republicans.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, that party's voters expressed dismay that someone who practiced this faith might be president. Stan Craig of South Carolina winced visibly at the idea of a female chief executive, but would cast his ballot for a lady before a he'd ever vote for a Mormon. "The devil wrote only one Bible," Mr. Craig declared, "and Joseph Smith found it under a rock." Doug Wavle, who sits on the Republican executive committee in that state, offered the following: "I will be honest with you. Mormons don't see Jesus Christ for who Jesus Christ really is."
We've witnessed this before. In 1928 Alfred E. Smith was the Democratic Party's nominee for the presidency, the first Roman Catholic to reach that high. In response, the Daytona Beach, Fla. school board sent a note home with every student. It read, simply, "We must prevent the election of Alfred E. Smith to the Presidency. If he is elected President, you will not be allowed to have or read a Bible." Americans learned how a Smith presidency meant that all Protestant marriages would be immediately annulled, their children rendered illegitimate on the spot. The pope would come over and run the country; photos of the Lincoln Tunnel under construction were widely distributed, with the caption that this was the secret passageway being built from Rome to Washington, D.C., that the pontiff would use to take over, if Smith won.
Now, once again, there is ignorant fear that a mysterious religious center will control a candidate for the presidency, in Smith's case Rome, in Romney's Salt Lake City.
This is balderdash. In either case, the test is not a candidate's private beliefs, but his political and policy views. And there was never any evidence that the Roman Catholic hierarchy tried to sway Smith on any issue, nor that the Mormons have attempted to control Mitt Romney on a matter of policy, rather than of individual faith.
In fact, in Romney's case, the only church I'm worried about influencing his choices are the other fundamentalist Protestant ones, which have so much power in the Republican Party, yet are extreme and reactionary.
There are lots of good reasons to vote against Mitt Romney, based on his positions on government, the economy, and so much else. The choice of whether or not to do so, as for any candidate, is a citizen's right. That is the American way.
But to oppose any candidate solely on the basis of which God he worships, which church he goes to, is blind, evil bigotry. It is not the path of Americans. It is, instead, the practice of the Klan.