Consider the following scenario: four candidates are running for president in 2008. One is a pro-choice Protestant who believes in balanced budgets and would cut spending and lower taxes, but is divorced and remarried to someone who has also been divorced. The second candidate is a Catholic, who is pro-life, but who believes in tax increases and more government spending to help the poor. This candidate is married, but during the '60s he smoked dope and lived in an ashram with two women. The third is Jewish and supports the Iraq war and Israel against those who wish to destroy it, is married to a gentile and thinks same-sex marriage is OK. The fourth candidate is a Mormon, who is married to the same woman he started out with, is pro-life, opposes same-sex marriage, wants taxes and government spending cut, would put more conservatives on the Supreme Court and appears consistent in his private and public behavior.
According to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, if you are a conservative Christian voter, you are more likely to vote for the Protestant, Catholic or Jewish candidate before you would vote for the Mormon, though he is more in line with your political philosophy.
The poll found that while anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism are fading among voters, anti-Mormonism is not. Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids a "religious test" for those wishing to serve in public office, but it can do nothing about voters who wish to apply a religious test to candidates.
The impetus for the poll appears to be the likely presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.
I am reminded of a comedy bit by the late Steve Allen. Allen would take a camera and microphone into the street and ask people, "Could you ever vote for an openly heterosexual person for president?" The shocked interviewee would fervently respond, "Oh, no, I could never do that." It was funny, but it also said something about the ignorance of the individual being quizzed.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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