Hitchens: It's "essential" that Romney be asked about Mormonism

Following on his Cavuto appearance from last week. There isn’t much here that you haven’t heard before and he’s a bit too credulous of the claims that Mitt orchestrated the suspicious anti-Mormon phone poll in Iowa, but this is sharp:

Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple. The Mormon elders then had a “revelation” and changed the rules, thus more or less belatedly coming into compliance with the dominant civil rights statutes. The timing (as with the revelation abandoning polygamy, which occurred just in time to prevent Utah from being denied membership of the Union) permits one to be cynical about its sincerity. However that may be, it certainly makes nonsense of Romney’s moaning about any criticism or questioning being “un-American.” The Mormons have already had to choose—twice—between their beliefs and American values.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has had to be asked about his long-ago membership of the Ku Klux Klan (which, I would remind you, is also a Protestant Christian identity organization), and he was only a fiddle-playing member, not a Grand Kleagle or whatever the hell it is. Why should Romney not be made to give an account of himself? A black candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan could expect questions about his faith in the existence of the mad scientist Yakub, creator of the white race, or in the orbiting mother ship visited by the head of the Nation of Islam. What gives Romney an exemption?

My pal Barnett wonders whether the “Christian leader” graphic in Huck’s new ad isn’t his way of subtly contrasting himself with the Mormon in the field. Possibly, but if touting one’s Christian bona fides is now beyond the pale then it extends Hitchens’s lament here even further. His gripe is that Mitt has largely succeeded in rendering questions about Mormonism taboo; the next step is to render any reference to religion taboo lest it make an issue by implication, intentionally or not, of Mitt’s faith. There’s a certain appeal to that for atheists, but as we’re seeing in the comments to the post about Huckabee’s ad, not all Christians will receive warmly the idea that a candidate shouldn’t be encouraged to talk about his beliefs.

Speaking of Huck, he spent yesterday morning preaching. “After the later service ended in Fountain Inn, Huckabee and his wife Janet lingered for an hour shaking hands with dozens of church-goers who had lined up to meet them, many of whom told CNN they were already supporting Huckabee’s presidential bid.”