Jonah Goldberg

Is Mormonism a cult? Yes, no, maybe, who cares. From a Jewish perspective, you could say that Mormonism is simply one of the more recent additions to a very long line of cults. From an atheist perspective, it's cults as far as the eye can see.

But from a moral perspective, contemporary Mormonism is squarely within the Judeo-Christian tradition, promoting decency, self-restraint, family values, etc.

The old Moral Majority had its flaws, but its core mission was admirable: to promote moral unity under the banner of theological pluralism. However you worship, if you shared the same "traditional values" you could work together. Jeffress turns all that on its head.

He also plays into the worst stereotypes about the Republicans as a bigoted and theocratic party for evangelical Christians alone. And that's ironic, too, because anti-Mormon prejudice is not a particularly acute problem on the right.

According to Gallup, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they'd never vote for a Mormon presidential candidate (27 percent compared with 18 percent). Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll of voters taken earlier this year says 68 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents are comfortable with a Mormon president, while only 49 percent of Democrats are.

It's good and right that Perry is distancing himself from Jeffress. Then again, maybe he put Jeffress up to this stunt in the first place so the idea would get out without him taking the heat for it.

Ironically, if Perry did goad the Dallas-based pastor to blow the Mormon dog whistle, or if he picks it up himself, it would only lend credence to Jeffress' insinuation that a choice between Romney and Perry is a choice between a "good, moral person" and "a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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