Is it fair to vote against a candidate based on his or her religious beliefs? Why not? Tolerance is one thing. Endorsement is quite another. As no lesser a sage than George Carlin has pointed out, one's religious beliefs are strictly voluntary. Unlike your race, ethnicity or gender, it's you who chooses what to believe or not.
Now that Mitt Romney has introduced his religion into the center of the political arena, I think we have every right to evaluate him, in part, on precisely those beliefs. No surprise that Mitt -- who has was pro-choice before he was anti-choice, who was tolerant of gays and immigrants before turning nativist and homophobe -- would now want it both ways when it comes to his Mormonism.
First he said this: "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."
Then he said that: "I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs."
That said, should I care just exactly what those Mormon beliefs are?
Damn straight I should. And I do. Mormon beliefs could have a profound effect on vast swaths of public policy as the religion reporter of The Dallas Morning News pointed out earlier this year. Mormon doctrine holds that the constitution of the United States was divinely inspired; that welfare undermines the higher value of self-sufficiency; that traditional families must be strengthened and that women should be those primarily responsible for child-rearing; that abortion, with some exceptions should be banned, and that each person has an inherent gender that pre-existed in a life before birth and that each of these identities can never be gay.
Worse, Mormons subscribe to the notion of so-called "continuing revelation" which, boiled down, means that a practicing member of the church can have a dramatic epiphany at any moment that would alter the basic dogma. That's what supposedly happened thirty years ago when official church policy was altered to allow blacks full membership in the Latter Days Saints.
That's to say, it wasn't until 1978 that Mormons processed the "revelation" that people with dark skin might really be, um, people. What revelation might a President Romney have some afternoon while doodling in the West Wing?
Mitt Romney's free to be a Mormon and free to run as a religiously-inspired candidate. And I'm just as free to reject him for his religious beliefs as I am for his positions on the war, taxes and torture. Now, that's real tolerance.