Alan Reynolds

When Jack Kennedy ran for president, there was a great deal of fussing and fuming about his being Catholic. In a June 1960 Roper poll, 35 percent objected to a Catholic president. Why? Did anyone really think he'd try to ban birth control, require eating fish on Fridays or consult with the pope on foreign policy?

Today, nobody would dare suggest that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is not admirably qualified to be president simply because he is a Catholic. It would have been equally repulsive if, in 2000, the pollsters and press had tried to make a pseudo-issue out of vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman's religious orthodoxy. Few people today would dare tell a pollster they wouldn't vote for a Jewish or Catholic candidate, because that would make them look like fans of the Ku Klux Klan. The same goes for polls about voting for women and blacks. People may or may not do the right thing in the privacy of the voting booth, but it is easy to say the right thing.

There appears to be a different standard of civil decency, however, when it comes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Why? Is anyone really worried that Gov. Mitt Romney wants to bring back Prohibition? Does anyone think he might propose a 10 percent tithe (a members-only flat tax) to replace the welfare state as well as Mormons do?

Several years ago, an article in Slate by David Plotz put religion and politics into historical context. "In 1937," he found, "46 percent said they would vote for a Jewish presidential candidate, and 47 percent said they wouldn't. In 1999, 92 percent said they would vote for a Jew, and only 6 percent wouldn't. In 1958, 27 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Catholic. In 1999, only 4 percent said they wouldn't. ... The free pass does not extend to all religions. Seventeen percent of Americans won't vote for a Mormon, the same as in 1967, the last time Gallup surveyed about Mormons. ... As for atheists, forget it. Only 49 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist presidential candidate."

Not to be outdone, a recent Rasmussen Report poll said, "43 percent of American voters say they would never even consider voting for a Mormon presidential candidate." Well, 45 percent also said they would never even consider voting for Hillary Clinton, but that hasn't slowed her down. And, as Plotz observed, only 49 percent are willing to vote for an atheist. But 49 percent is enough to win.

LDS television ads show that their pro-family beliefs are essentially indistinguishable from those of evangelical Christian groups, with whom they often form alliances. Yet "half of all evangelical Christians say that they would not consider voting for a Mormon candidate," according to the Rasmussen Report.

Alan Reynolds

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