Mormons have a reason to be nervous. I didn't fully appreciate it two years ago, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first came under an intense political spotlight. In 2006, Mormon officials had begun making the media rounds, prepping for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's expected try for the Republican presidential nomination. This protective measure stood out. No evangelical contingents were giving theological primers in anticipation of Mike Huckabee's run. Few officials were warning Catholics to not do as Rudy Giuliani does on abortion before his run. Why did the Mormons need to do advance work?
We quickly saw why. Many members of this young, uniquely American church understandably did not desire the intense scrutiny that Romney's run would bring. It didn't take long, as it turned out, for journalists and popular blogs to raise questions about undergarments, theology and points of history. Some points fell within the fair scope of political journalism, while many were clearly out of bounds.
But nothing justifies the concerns of anxious Mormons like the current controversy over Proposition 8 in California. This initiative protecting traditional marriage won by the same margin as Barack Obama did in that state -- getting the support of some Obama voters, in fact. Its victory has led supposed agents of tolerance to blatant acts of bigotry; gay-marriage advocates are blaming the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their electoral defeat.
Romney, because he subscribes to the Mormon faith, had to give a speech on religion a year ago. In it, Romney did what John F. Kennedy didn't do in the first Catholic president's effort to allay concerns about his creed. Kennedy essentially apologized for his religion, assuring people that it wouldn't have any real influence over his decisions as president. Romney, on the other hand, stood by the faith of his fathers, and took the opportunity to talk about how the varieties of belief and nonbelief practiced in the United States make it a richer, more vigorous country.
Romney's thanks for this contribution to our civic life consist of continued hostility. A piece in the Boston Herald proclaimed "Mitt Romney's kin put faith in pa$$ing Proposition 8." The story detailed how some Romney relatives, along with other prominent Massachusetts Mormons, contributed cash to the pro-8 campaign.