I’ll Admit It: This is Personal to Me

As is documented in an Associated Press article that appeared today, Mitt Romney’s religious faith, which is also my religious faith, plainly hurt him in Mississippi and Alabama.  Moreover, among those who said that a candidate’s moral character was important to them, Governor Romney — son of a widely respected business leader, governor, and cabinet secretary; faithful husband for more than four decades; father of five exemplary sons; former governor; extraordinarily successful businessman; savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics; unpaid minister — was tied with Newt Gingrich, while Rick Santorum walked off with 60% of their vote.  Mr. Romney, many Santorum voters explained, didn’t share their values.

I’ll be frank: Although, sadly, this doesn’t surprise me, it depresses and exasperates me.  One of my sons has served as an officer aboard a nuclear submarine. My Danish immigrant grandfather served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War.  My father was a sergeant in the Eleventh Armored Division, part of General Patton’s Third Army, during World War Two, participating in the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen, in Austria.

(In the photo above — which can be enlarged by clicking on it — those liberated Mauthausen prisoners who are still capable of walking and standing welcome members of the Eleventh Armored Division. The banner across the wall says “Los Españoles Antifascistas Saludan a Las Fuerzas Liberadoras” [The Spanish Antifascists Greet the Liberating Forces].  The text is also written, in smaller letters, in English and Russian.)

Some of my ancestors arrived in New England in the 1630s.  Others helped to settle areas of the Midwest and the West in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  My family have been construction workers, farmers, rocket scientists, housewives, teachers, ranchers, engineers, businessmen, truck drivers, welders, postal clerks, and nurses. They’ve been instrumental in building up communities across North Dakota, Utah, California, and elsewhere.

Yet, it seems, my wife, my children, my brother, my extended family, my in-laws, and many of my friends and colleagues — whatever their other contributions and merits may be — are effectively being judged unworthy of full participation in American political life.

We can serve in the military, and we can pay taxes, and our leaders certainly want our votes.  But we’re not really fully-certified Americans.  (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews essentially said so just yesterday.)

My fellow Latter-day Saints have contributed, and continue to contribute, a very great deal to the United States, as well as to other places where they live.  Yet, in the minds of a large number of (particularly Evangelical) voters, we’re evidently disqualified from certain offices in our own country because of our religious beliefs.

A prominent supporter of Senator Rick Santorum has publicly demanded that Governor Romney renounce his faith.

Has any other mainstream presidential candidate ever had such a demand made of him?  Yet there has been very little outcry against or condemnation of this outrageous demand, and, so far as I’m aware, Senator Santorum hasn’t disavowed his supporter’s remarks.

There is, in many circles, a pervasive prejudice against Latter-day Saints.  It has no place in American public life.  It has no place in a political campaign.  Any politician cynical and power-hungry enough to use it against an opponent has, in my opinion, forfeited the moral right to my support and to the support of decent people.

Later addendum:  Oops.  It turns out that the language in the Newt Gingrich link above was a bit more colorful than I had noticed in first glancing over it.  My apologies for that.

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