Way back in the heady days of September 2006, I mentioned that nascent presidential candidate Mitt Romney's status as a Mormon isn't going to go over well with the religious right, especially in South Carolina where they've kind of doubled-down on the whole wacky religion thing. Lots of conservatives have tried to downplay the religious bigotry inherent in "the base" and pretend as if Romney's religion is no big deal to the tolerant, open-minded Republican primary voters. Except of course for that little incident where a party leader accosted him about his religion.
Now there's another example in Monday's Greenville News. For balance, of course, the News feels the need to lead off with an example of that famed Republican tolerance:
Bob Leach, a Republican legislator from Greenville, got right to the point with Mitt Romney on one of the presidential candidate's early stops in South Carolina late last year.
"Who was Jesus Christ?" he asked Romney, a devout Mormon.
"My personal Lord and Savior," Leach recalled Romney saying.Leach, a Baptist and House Republican Caucus chaplain, was so taken with the response that he soon endorsed Romney.
Leach is so tolerant, he didn't really need to know anything about Romney other than the fact that he accepts Jesus as his lord and savior. Just so long as he isn't, you know, like a Jew or something.
But not everyone is as ecumenical as Bob Leach:
But Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, didn't sway fellow Republican Rep. Gloria Haskins of Greenville, who attended Bob Jones University.
"Mormonism is a cult, and you can't paint it any other way," she said recently. Haskins is supporting the candidacy of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
So says the graduate from BJU. Here's another:
The Rev. David Kay, associate pastor, said it [the how-to-convert-a-Mormon seminar] wasn't triggered by Romney's visits, but by his own increasing awareness of growing Mormon missionary work. Mormonism, he believes, is a cult rather than a Christian religion.
Kay describes Mormonism's martyred founder, Joseph Smith, as "just a nut case" and said "anybody who would believe the teachings of Joseph Smith is misled."
Yeah, Smith's teachings are pretty nutty. They're almost as nutty as believing that Adam and Eve frolicked with dinosaurs, that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, that a one-world government run by the UN will trigger the end times, that all kangaroos are descended from a pair that hopped to Australian from the Middle East after getting off of a boat they had been on for a year, and other things that no rational person could ever, ever believe.
But Romney's religion isn't the religious right's only hang-up. That terrible evil known as divorce also has them up in arms:
They're not reluctant to weigh in, as frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani learned last week when a top Southern Baptist Convention official said the thrice-married former New York City mayor's tangled personal life may be too much for evangelicals to accept, The Associated Press reported from Nashville.
I really think that a guy who's been married three times isn't that big of a deal considering some recent revelations about the lifestyles of prominent evangelicals. Sometimes I wonder if they shouldn't just get it over with and choose leaders who are openly gay pedophile gambling drug addicts. It would would probably be less embarrassing that way.
Anyway, the whole point here is that of course Romney's Mormonism is a huge issue among the religious right, and anyone who thinks that it'll go away by focusing on Romeny's conservative credentials, or the fact that he's never been divorced (very important when formulating foreign policy you know), is deluding themselves. Romney will lose the primary, and part of it will be due to the fact that we do not live in a religiously tolerant society.