Obama's campaign must resist the temptation to attack Romney's faith

One reason Democrats may be more anti-Mormon than Republicans is that Democrats, on average, are more secular. Devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may be more tolerant of Mormonism because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings. Many secular Democrats, by contrast, may start with the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance. I don’t think, for instance, that there’s any way to understand the hostility that many liberals felt toward Joseph Lieberman in the 1990s—long before he became associated with the Iraq War and the John McCain campaign—without understanding their hostility to what they perceived as his moralistic Orthodox Judaism. Democrats may exhibit greater suspicion of Mormonism, in other words, because they exhibit greater suspicion of all organized religion. It’s just that anti-Mormonism is still socially acceptable enough to confess to a pollster.

The second way in which Democrats justify their anti-Mormonism is via the LDS Church’s own flirtation with bigotry. Until 1978 the Church of Latter-day Saints would not ordain men of African descent into the priesthood. And as recently as 2008, the church organized massively to ban gay marriage in California. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if one reason Democrats are more anti-Mormon than Republicans is because African-Americans, gays, and lesbians are more anti-Mormon. But using the church’s historic (and even present-day) intolerance to justify intolerance toward its members is idiotic. LDS is hardly the only faith with a history of antiblack racism, and individual Mormons should be held no more responsible for the LDS Church’s antigay views than individual Catholics should be held responsible for the Vatican’s.

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