Until the wholesale rightwing nutjob attack on the President’s religion and birthplace stops influencing the mainstream opinion of average Americans, a discussion of Mitt Romney’s religion and beliefs should not be off limits. In fact, there should be more open discussion of Romney’s religion, since it’s been one of the most important parts of his entire life. Especially now with Romney’s new ad “Be Not Afraid” which questions President Obama’s ‘beliefs’ and the now familiar conservative theme of “us and him” separation — the dog-whistling racist implication of the “otherness” of Obama and how he doesn’t share “our values,” how Obama has declared a “war on religion” with health care reform. And how Mitt Romney believes “that’s wrong.” And that Romney is the one to choose when “religious freedom is threatened.” What. Total. Horseshit.
Let’s talk about a couple of things regarding Mitt Romney and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:
The Dark Side of Mitt Romney | Vanity Fair – ”But a dichotomy exists within the Mormon Church, which holds that one is either in or out; there is little or no tolerance for those, like so-called cafeteria Catholics, who pick and choose what doctrines to follow. And in Mormonism, if one is in, a lot is expected, including tithing 10 percent of one’s income, participating regularly in church activities, meeting high moral expectations, and accepting Mormon doctrine—including many concepts, such as the belief that Jesus will rule from Missouri in his Second Coming, that run counter to those of other Christian faiths. That rigidity can be difficult to abide for those who love the faith but chafe at its strictures or question its teachings and cultural habits. For one, Mormonism is male-dominated—women can serve only in certain leadership roles and never as bishops or stake presidents. The church also makes a number of firm value judgments, typically prohibiting single or divorced men from leading wards and stakes, for example, and not looking kindly upon single parenthood.”
“Bishop is the highest priesthood office of the Aaronic priesthood in the Latter Day Saint movement, and is leader of the Aaronic priesthood in a given ward or congregation. It is almost always held by one who already holds the Melchizedek Priesthood office of high priest and who serves as the leader of a local congregation of church members. The Latter Day Saint concept of the office differs significantly from the role of bishops in other Christian denominations, being in some respects more analogous to a pastor or parish priest. Each bishop serves with two counselors, which together form a bishopric.
“[...] In the largest Latter Day Saint denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), bishops are called from among the members of a local congregation, known as a ward, and traditionally serve, without pay, for four to seven years (the actual length of service can vary). A bishop must be a married high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood. The bishop acts as the Presiding High Priest of the ward. A bishop simultaneously serves as the president of the Aaronic priesthood and president of the Priests Quorum in the ward. [...] The calling of each bishop must be approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…”
The question is: if elected, can Mitt Romney separate his religious beliefs from his secular duties in the office of President? Can he protect our country’s principle of ‘freedom of religion’ — meaning everyone has a right to their beliefs, even if their beliefs are not similar to Romney’s — meaning the government cannot tell you to worship God if you don’t or, if you do, how to worship God. The government cannot mandate you be a Sikh, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, or Mormon — the government cannot legislate you to believe that Jesus will return to rural Missouri, that you’ll get your own planet in the afterlife, or that wearing underwear marked with freemasonry symbols will protect you from the evils of the world (and the “others”).
If Romney wants to pretend that a mandate in the Affordable Care Act to include birth control in insurance plans (with the caveat that Churches in opposition do not have to pay for the mandate) is a “threat to religious freedom,” then I think it’s fair to wonder if that opinion is based in Republican political ideology or in Romney’s personal religious beliefs. And IF it’s based in his religious beliefs, what else might he impose on the rest of us from the Book of Mormon?