In America, there are religious differences. That is seen in street preachers handing out religious tracks to share the gospel, just as it is in young Mormon men serving in pairs for their two-year missionary service, going door-to-door trying to win converts to their faith. No one tries to convert someone else unless he believes that other person is of a different faith, and that the person he is talking to should embrace his instead.
It need not be un-American to say that there are profound doctrinal differences between Mormons and Protestants or Catholics. A candidate’s religious beliefs may or may not be a factor in a voter’s decision to cast a vote.
Religious liberty does not require us to refrain from discussing such things. Rather, it requires us to respect those who do who are sincere and well meaning, regardless of their religion. For many, it is also a requirement of their faith that they share it with others.
One can be respectful of other faiths, while still believing his own is right. America is pluralistic insofar as everyone’s right to worship in the public square is respected. We are not pluralistic in the sense we have to say religions that flatly contradict our own are equally true with our own.
Too many of both the Right and the Left will have none of that. Having no tolerance for any religion that claims to be the true faith, many talking heads condemn anyone who considers religion a factor in who to vote for, and says that anyone who does is a bigot.
“Bigot” is a nasty word, and is being thrown around all too casually in this discussion. Bigotry is a far cry from respectfully disagreeing with someone’s faith doctrine. We don’t lynch people in America for being a Methodist, or put them in the back of the bus for being a Pentecostal. Such language is the last thing we need for our public discourse.
All this not only forces people to gingerly tiptoe around their personal faith for fear of being criticized as intolerant, it also forces them to be anti-intellectual. It shuts out the possibility for respectful, vigorous debates to build mutual understanding and find common ground.
This is not about Mormons or evangelicals. Ultimately, it is about respecting people of faith, including those whose faith is so important to them that it influences their vote. America was, and remains, a religious nation where voters take their values, derived from their religious beliefs, to the voting booths. But, that is truly America’s established tradition of religious liberty.
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