This is an idea who’s time has not only come–but quite frankly has long past. I have long hoped for an organization, something like the Anti-Defamation League for Mormons to take active measures to combat Mormon Bigotry. While its not quite the ADL, film maker Mitch Davis (see also here)has created an organization to combat religious bigtory toward Mormons. This story ran in today’s Deseret News, as well as other media organizations. Geoff B over at Millennial Star has a nice write up on it as well.
The organization has a website, RunMittRun.org which allows individuals so inclined and endowed with sufficent means to help the cause. If you are in that category, I strongly urge you to contribute to this incredibly worthwhile cause. It also has links to some interesting candid interviews about everyday people opining on whether a Mormon could be elected president. If these are real and any indication of the true feelings of voters out there, I’d say Mitch Davis has his work cut out for him.
Some quips from the Deseret News story:
Davis said he decided to do something after hearing too many times that Romney, now governor of Massachusetts, may be the best choice for president if he decides to run, but he can’t win because he’s a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“That’s religious bigotry,” Davis told the Deseret Morning News. “I think Mormons in general are more targeted because we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you stand up, you stand out. Mormons stand out.”
Davis, a graduate of Brigham Young University who lives in San Diego, has already invested his own money in a poll of South Carolinians. One-third of the respondents said they could not vote for a member of the LDS Church for president.
The results are similar to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters nationwide, released earlier this month. That poll found 37 percent of those questioned would not vote for an LDS presidential candidate. But the South Carolina poll went further.
Half of the respondents in South Carolina said LDS Church members don’t believe in the Bible, Davis said, and 44 percent thought members of the church still practiced polygamy. One-fourth believed that Mormons aren’t even Christians.
“The level of ignorance appalled me. I was embarrassed for our church and for our country,” Davis said. He proposes an advertising campaign that would possibly feature prominent members of the LDS Church, including quarterback Steve Young and singer Gladys Knight.
“We just need to inform people enough to allow them to lose their native prejudices,” Davis said. “We’re not going to try to sell the church — we’re going to try to eliminate it as a negative.”
South Carolina, the first Southern state to hold a presidential primary, would be considered a crucial test for Romney, because so many conservative evangelicals in the region aren’t comfortable with the LDS Church. Some even consider it a cult.
Interestingly Davis’ political group is one of those 527 groups (you know, like the swift boat veterans group)–only I would hope that Davis will steer his group on a much higer moral ground than those clowns.
In a related, but somewhat different post over at NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez notes how the equation changes from the mythical generic Mormon candidate to the real life Mitt Romney candidate:
So as the discussion moves from an anonymous Mormon candidate to the real, live Mitt Romney, and from abstract speculation to actual primaries and caucuses, polling will become more meaningful. Those opposed to a generic Mormon candidate may reveal that their opposition is prompted much more by political ideology than by sectarian concerns about religion.
Michael Cromartie, who runs the Evangelical Studies Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., has observed: “Most evangelicals do perceive Mormonism to be a cult and are deeply troubled by its theology. But this does not mean they would not vote for someone like Gov. Romney.” When they vote for president, they are voting not for a pastor or confessor, but for a political leader — and in that arena, evangelicals and Mormons have much in common.
Rewind to April 2005 for a hint at how theological differences fade once we start talking politics. Some of the most heartfelt remembrances of Pope John Paul II came from evangelical Christians in Congress. Now, true, a Catholic has already been president, and my crowd (I’m Catholic) is bigger that the Salt Lakers, so folks are a bit more used to us; but papists and evangelical Protestants do have some not-minor theological differences. Yet on abortion and cloning and gay marriage — which Mormon Romney has some experience fighting in his oh-so-blue Bay State — there’s a real political and cultural bond that transcends theological differences. I might not go to church with him, but I can work with him. And if I were a conservative evangelical Protestant, I’d certain consider voting for someone who talks about a culture of life in the way Romney does.
The media, naturally, will continue to miss the real story: the fact that Romney’s convictions, as they are translated into politics, might make him more, rather than less, appealing to evangelicals. This isn’t just conservative grousing, either: CNN political analyst Bill Schneider recently remarked, to the L.A. Times, that “the press is one of the most secular institutions in American society. It just doesn’t get religion or any idea that flows from religious conviction.”
Who knows, these articles and Davis’ group may lay the groundwork for Romney’s Kennedy speech. So far, I think, these are good signs for Mitt Romney. Yet, it is still early, and we have miles to go.