Mitt Romney is many things. An entrepreneur, family man, a multi-millionaire, a politician. He is also a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In other words, a Mormon.
Horrors! Those people?
If you thought we went down this "attack Mormons" road four years ago, and it's a non-issue because voters and the media are more enlightened now, guess again.
In the last day, the tabloid website Gawker published an article, using two anonymous sources, that mocked Romney for his religious beliefs. The "charge" is that Romney converted his self-proclaimed atheist father-in-law to Mormonism posthumously.
Gawker, calling the practice "strange" and disrespectful, writes: "It's an exceedingly odd way for the Romney family to honor the memory of a man who was committed, for his entire life, to the notion that organized religion is a fraud."
In other words: if Romney's beliefs, rituals and religious practices aren't within an arbitrary sphere of normal, it's appropriate to judge him and presumably his ability to govern America.
As a side note, the practice was commonly used to convert Jews and Catholics (of which I am one) posthumously. It rightfully came under fire and in 1995, Mormons ceased the practice of converting -- after death - souls of people who belonged to religions other than Mormonism and thereby seemingly acknowledging and accepting other peoples' religious beliefs.
It's worth noting Gawker is writing about the "strange" practice four days before a crucial Republican vote in Florida. Hey, politics is dirty, I get that. And, I'm not saying that the Romney campaign isn't taking a no-holds-barred approach to attacking other candidates, especially Newt Gingrich. If you watched Tuesday's CNN debate, you know the gloves are off and that attack is the new black.
It doesn't matter where this oppo is coming from. What does matter is that in the land of the free - where the right to religious freedom is written into the First Amendment - anyone would mock the tenets and beliefs of an organized religion. Especially one that claims 13 million followers worldwide, nearly the same as the number of Jews.
Every person's religion or lack thereof can be perceived as bizarre. Catholics believe that Jesus' mother's body was taken into heaven; Many Jews hold a bris ceremony where a rabbi circumcises an 8 day-old boy in a room full of guests.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of ammo that could sink Romney's presidential aspirations come fall if he wins the Republican nomination and Americans are faced with voting for a black Democrat or voting for a Mormon.
Many people I've spoken to about Gawker's hit job snicker and shrug that they've always thought Mormonism was "weird." All you have to do is sit in a red velvet seat on Broadway for two hours and listen to the audience howling at the Tony-winning musical Book of Mormon song "I Believe" to know that freedom of religion is on permanent hiatus and mockery is alive and well. In case you've missed the well-acted, well-produced spectacle, cue the music:
"I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.
I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well.
And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
If you believe, the Lord will reveal it.
And you'll know it's all true. You'll just feel it."
While I understand the musical is satire and yes, I did laugh during parts of the show, what I don't understand is why voters, not theatergoers out for a night of entertainment, delight in mocking a presumably faithful man's religion, but others are just fine with fellow candidate Newt Gingrich's uncanny ability to convince two women at a time, a wife and a mistress, to love him. At last check adultery is something that the Bible condemns. And it's likely even atheists would believe that it's not a good idea to uh, bed another women while married.
If you want to talk character, look a little closer at the "strange" Mormon Romney. He has never attacked fellow candidate Newt Gingrich for his three wives and two affairs. Or for allegedly asking wife number two for an "open marriage." Or for calling his second wife at her mother's birthday party to ask for a divorce, as "strange" and disrespectful, and worthy of a Broadway musical as that may be.
Hmm. I smell a double standard. Let's get this straight. Voters think it's no one's business that a married man trying to impeach a president for sexual misconduct is himself getting it on the side?
Yet, it's fine to consider disqualifying a man running for president who is acting within the bounds of his religious beliefs?
We have become a society of strange bedfellows when it comes to analyzing our potential leaders' personal lives . Adultery, okay. Some organized religions, not ok. Endangering the soul of a Catholic woman (Callista), okay. Converting the soul of your father-in-law posthumously, not okay. And not just not okay, strange and weird and icky.
Voters in South Carolina, a Bible Belt state, basically gave Gingrich a pass on his immoral behavior with a laissez faire I-don't-care-what-he-does-in-his-private-life attitude, giving him a 12- point win - a thumpin'-- over Romney.
If the Gawker article is any indication, we are back to - or never stopped - Mormon-bashing. By his own admission, Romney has big shoulders and can take it. But maybe, instead of judging Romney's religious practices or Gingrich's lapses of morality, maybe, just maybe, voters need to take a hard look at what this land of equality truly stands for.