I imagine Romney thought he had a winning strategy for dealing with his Mormonism — proclaim loudly that his faith is off-limits and hope that no other serious candidate made an issue of it. Nobody else in the race had hard-core evangelical street cred, so everybody could just put their hand on the bible and observes a sort of mutually enforced "don’t ask, don’t tell."
Then along came Huck. And we get some serious questions asked. Is Jesus the devil’s brother? Is the Garden of Eden somewhere in Missouri?
Enquiring minds want to know.
So I was somewhat disappointed when I saw Marc Ambinder’s interview with Romeny to see that he once again let the Mittster be extremely evasive on the GOP God gambit. Ambinder asks him about the response to his Sermon on the Mount, to which Romney replies:
I’ve gotten a very positive series of comments in that regard. There are a couple of things people have pointed out — why didn’t I mention nonbelievers — well, I thought that was assumed within the general purview of faith but you know, that doesn’t bother me… a couple of other things mentioned, small points, but overwhelmingly, the response has been positive and that’s been heartening. Because I do want to underscore the religious tolerance and diversity that’s a key part of our society.
At which point, a follow-up question would have been nice, something along the lines of "well, you say you wouldn’t allow any Muslims in your cabinet. Do we have a different definition of "religious" or "tolerance" here?"
Or better yet, let’s talk about 1978. Lord forgive me for I’m about to sin, but I’m going to quoteth…Hitchens:
Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple. The Mormon elders then had a "revelation" and changed the rules, thus more or less belatedly coming into compliance with the dominant civil rights statutes. The timing (as with the revelation abandoning polygamy, which occurred just in time to prevent Utah from being denied membership of the Union) permits one to be cynical about its sincerity. However that may be, it certainly makes nonsense of Romney’s moaning about any criticism or questioning being "un-American." The Mormons have already had to choose — twice — between their beliefs and American values.
Mitt Romney was very much alive in 1978. Did he need the decree of a church in danger of losing its non-profit tax status to tell him African Americans could get into heaven, or was that something he sussed out on his own prior to that time? It’s a reasonable question on the part of a press that damn near had an aneurysm when Keith Ellison announced he would take the oath of office on the Koran.
It’s not off-limits under anybody’s rules but Romney’s. It’s high time somebody asked.