Who Knew Mitt Romney Had a Skeptical, ex-Mormon Second Cousin?

Park Romney is Mitt Romney‘s second cousin. They’re not close (Mitt claims not to know Park, which is entirely possible when you come from freakishly large families), but what’s really interesting is that Park is an ex-Mormon:

Mitt Romney’s religion, Mormonism, which is my former religion, having been a Mormon High Priest, like Mitt still is, is a far bigger issue than most people realize and understand. In our rush to avoid being accused of being bigoted, in America, we have a natural tendency to want to steer clear of this topic. I will be the first to agree that to be arbitrarily dismissive of a man’s candidacy for the office of President, or any office for that matter, on the basis of his religion is definitely bigoted. “Arbitrarily dismissive” is the key phrase here. In the case of Mormonism, we have a very unique situation. Questions about Mormonism for those fully informed of the very real issues are not in the least degree arbitrary. There are very real concerns that millions of former Mormons are very much aware of. This is not simply a question of subjective disagreements on points of faith that really can’t be proved or disproved anyway. In the case of the Mormon Church, I share the view with many others, including people far more scholarly and qualified in other ways than myself, that the Mormon religion is not only an insidious contemporary fraud, but has been demonstrated conclusively to be such by researchers who are alive today and competent to testify on the basis of evidence still available today. Accordingly, the questions that are most important and relevant to Mitt’s candidacy here, since he is a current High Priest of the Mormon Church, are not of religion, but very fair questions of ethics and judgment.

Sounds like a reasonable analysis of the situation. Romney doesn’t deserve to be excluded from running for the presidency based on his religious beliefs, but we deserve to know what aspects of Mormonism he adheres to because they help us understand his thought process and — let’s face it — his sanity.

So what does the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank say about Park Romney?

Mitt Romney, [Park] claims, would be conflicted in office because “obedience to the leadership of the Mormon Church is part of the covenant of the temple ordinances to which Mitt Romney is absolutely a party.”

Were you to come across a man articulating such views on a street corner, you probably would give him a wide berth and look over your shoulder to make sure he wasn’t following you…

Every family has wacky relatives. The difference is, when you’re running for office and you become a famous name, your relatives’ surname becomes famous too — sometimes in unwelcome ways.

the emergence of a “crazy cousin” might remind voters that Romney, a candidate who too often comes across as programmed, is just like the rest of us.

So, because someone dares to point out Mormon theology (regardless of whether or not Mitt Romney takes it seriously), he’s “wacky,” “crazy,” and accused of being “anti-Mormon” (in a bigoted way) rather than a critic of bad ideas and irrational thinking?

Park responds to the criticism here. (Admittedly, the layout of his website makes me think he’s kooky, anyway… but it’s not because of what he’s saying.)

Milbank seems to think if you critically examine religion, you’re being intolerant. He’s wrong.

People don’t understand Mormonism. That’s true. But right now, that’s only helping Mitt Romney. The moment people begin to learn what Mormon theology really consists of and how fucked up it really is, Mitt’s going to have a lot to answer to.

Side note: David Fitzgerald gave a great talk about Mormon theology at Skepticon 4 (start at the 1:00 mark):

(Thanks to Jamie for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • littlejohn

    Are all Mormon men freakishly handsome?

    • Skjaere

       Yes. They post all their members’ photos on “Hot or Not”, and anyone who rates a “not” gets booted out of the church. I thought everyone knew this?

  • Wintermute

    At the same time, though, I wonder: there were plenty of people who said that Kennedy would be the end of the US because as a Catholic he was ultimately beholden to the Pope in Rome. Whatever else you might say about his administration, it doesn’t seem to me that he let his faith inappropriately influence his judgment (though if I’m mistaken, I’m happy to be corrected). Is this  establishment panic about a candidate from a different religion, or does Romney’s political career to date show signs that he’d make decisions rooted in his ideology that would be dangerous for us as a nation?

    • Xeon2000

      Yeah, and we saw how things ended with JFK.

      • Keith Collyer

         and that relates to the post you were responding to how, exactly?

        • Xeon2000

          It was in refence to JFK’s assassination… Though it seemed more relevant to me when I first made the post.

    • ExMo

      Mormons take the words of their prophet much more seriously than most catholics take the words of the pope. I used to be a mormon and I can tell you that obedience to the church is something that is drilled into the heads of the members. Mitt may not let the church run the white house, but it is naive to believe the mormon church will have no influence on his potential presidency.

  • Catherine

    I don’t think it is unusual not to know your second cousins, especially in a large transient country like ours. I have met only a couple of my second cousins, and even then only about one time each in my life. And I have a rather small family.

    In JFKs case, a lot of the panic was related to still prevalent nativist bigotry against undesirable immigrants like the Italians and the Irish, who tended to be Catholic. Yet asking about the role of catholic belief and the catholic religious institution in JFKs life and possible presidency was perfectly legitimate. As it turned out, JFK proved to be largely a cultural catholic who taught the nation about the large numbers of Catholics who don’t at all take their marching orders from that institution or who are at least able to separate Catholic beliefs from their politics.

    But the questions are still legitimate today when you have a candidate like Santorum whose religion appears to decide his politics much more than JFKs ever did. Or a candidate like Romney.

    • Conspirator

      Due to some conflict between my paternal grandfather and his siblings my father hasn’t seen many of his aunts/uncles and cousins since I’ve been alive (I’m 39).  Because of an odd coincidence I happened to be in the same city as my dad’s sister and many of those cousins and my aunt introduced me to them.    However I’m pretty sure I’ve only met children descended from one great uncle, so there are many others out there I don’t even know of.  

      Similarly on my mother’s side those few second/third cousins, etc., I only met a few years ago at my grandmother’s funeral.  

      In short, if Mitt says he doesn’t know this guy, I find it easy to believe.  If they all lived in Utah it might be more surprising.  

      • Skjaere

         Agreed. I only have three second cousins. They live in Tennessee, and I’ve never met or spoken to any of them.

    • ReginaldJooald

      I’ve met most/all of my *first* cousins, but I couldn’t name a single second cousin.

  • Catherine

    Also, I desperately want to write a comment to the effect of “Hubba Hubba” regarding Park Romneys exceptional good looks. But my first comment here was to rebuke someone for commenting on a woman’s looks rather than her views. I am admitting this because confession is good for the soul, and it is a roundabout way of getting my “Hubba Hubba” in. I think it is a bit different because discussions of women writers or speakers inevitably devolve into a discussion of their hotness, whereas discussions of men hardly ever do. We don’t view men as primarily decorative, so perhaps my “Hubba Hubba” doesn’t do any harm and helps even things out a bit. At least that’s what I tell myself as I’m drooling.

    • http://www.bblss.org/ Miki

      I’m amused you admitted that, Catherine.  I believe one of my first comments here was in response to the Atheists in Foxholes photo post to which I replied, “That’s hot,” or something like that.  I’m also amused that (at least from what I’ve seen) that the fellas don’t call us on these types of comments.  Then again, I haven’t observed women here being especially obnoxious or negative about some guy’s looks. 

    • Alex

      Could it be more socially acceptable because men don’t face oppressive sexism nearly as often as women?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    As an ex-Mormon myself, I have to admit I’m a little skeptical of the criticisms of Romney’s faith that revolve around some alleged unflagging obedience of the Mormon prophet.  While it is true this is a tenet of the Mormon faith, very few people take their religion so seriously that they would in practice follow a single leader without question, no matter what was asked of them.  It’s rather like the (clearly unfounded, in retrospect) idea that a Catholic president would be some kind of papist robot.  Sure, that’s what Catholic doctrine demands, but nobody much takes their religion that seriously.

    On that note, arguably a bigger problem is candidates like BachmannPerrySantorum Overdrive who, despite each adhering to a sect without a single central leader, take their faiths far more seriously than the average person.  While pretty much all Abrahamic religions are in-theory bad, most people don’t take it seriously enough for most of the “bad” to manifest itself.  That some do is nothing new, but three of them being serious contenders for the GOP nomination at some point, maybe that is…

    All that said, I think voters ought to know what Romney really believes.  There’s plenty of objectionable aspects that are unique to Mormonism.  I just don’t think the unflagging loyalty to the prophet thing is the main concern here.

    • http://profiles.google.com/randolph.jim Jim Randolph

      Santorum is Catholic, so does adhere to a sect with a central leader.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

        Good point, I forgot that.  I was thinking he was an evangelical.

        • http://profiles.google.com/randolph.jim Jim Randolph

          I think he tries to appear as an evangelical on purpose.

    • Anonymous

      James makes a valid point here.  I know there’s adherence to the Mormon beliefs and there’s a good amount of not questioning your leaders, but at the same time, Mormons do tend to make up their own rules as they try to embrace the best part of their beliefs and their efforts to make sure they stick to their beliefs (ie. caffeine soda – not officially forbidden, but it’s a mixed bag of “I never drink it” to “I can’t live without my Diet Coke”)

      I would much rather have Mitt over the other fundie freaks running as the GOP pick.  The main thing that disappoints me with Mitt is his refusal to acknowledge his human accomplishments as Mass governor under his watch.

  • Mairianna

    Personally, I think Mitt is just a “practicing Mormon”.  I think he rose to the rank of High Priest as a reason to improve his resume.  “Hey, look, I am a person of authority in my religion. Many people respect me.”  I seriously doubt Mitt (and many Mormons) actually believe the hooey about Joseph Smith and the magic underwear in their hearts.   It just happened to be the religion he was born into (just like JFK was born a Catholic.) 

    • Alex

      Mormon church is a lot more cultish than your run-of-the-mill christian church. It’s very bureaucratic and controlling, and its memners are usually a little more than “simply born into it”. I can say this after observing (especially, “before” and “after”) my parent, who converted to LDS over a decade ago and remains one to this day.

      Of course, there is a possibility of this “meh, I’m just a member, ho-hum”, but it’s a lot less plausible than in RC churches.

  • rickflick

    Apparently, parkromney.com is not park’s own web site.  

    • A Portlander

      The website’s privacy policy lists an address for “Friends of Park Romney”–it’s a closed UPS store in a Nevada strip mall.

  • Rwlawoffice

    So when an atheist is criticized for ridiculing a religion and is called a bigot you get upset and say that it is wrong.  That is interesting. You apparently do not think  a person who is saying what he believes should be labeled or called a bigot.  Oh wait, that is what you call Christians who stand up for their beliefs.  I guess it only works one way.  

    • Piet Puk

      People that deny others equal rights will be called bigots, atheists and theists alike.

      • Rwlawoffice

        Since when does the alleged denial of equal rights form the definition of a bigot? Here is the actual definition: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
        You and I could have very different views on a subject  and I could disagree with you, that doesn’t mean that you are a bigot, nor am I. 

        • Piet Puk

          Sorry, I see I should have been a bit clearer.
          At the comments here you will that find that people that deny others equal rights will be called bigots, atheists and theists alike.

    • Alex

      Give me an example of an atheist organization that promotes racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other bullshit, and we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, you have no argument. His beliefs are not what is at scrutiny here, but rather his association with an organization with known issues.

      • Rwlawoffice

        The speaker who is on the video in this post is a bigot by definition.  He is speaking at an atheist conference. He is showing an intolerance to the beliefs of the Mormon faith.  So this is a good example.  Whenever people of religion express their views they are labeled bigots and by your post it appears that you agree with that label, yet when the same label is given to an atheist you complain.  It is that hypocrisy that I was pointing out.

        • Alex

          He is analyzing their doctrine and talks about their history. How is that intolerant of anything? Does he advocate violence, shunning, or other injury to mormons simply because of their faith? I don’t have 45 minutes to watch the entire video, but can you point me to where he does so? So far, having skipped through, the only thing I saw was him talking about the history of LDS — full of fraud, lies, and inaccuracies as it is.

          He does laugh at a lot of stuff, and you know what? It’s funny. Sad kind of funny, but makes you chuckle.

          I’m sorry, I don’t see any hypocrisy here. Ideas are not immune to criticism just because they have a shroud of religion on them. Bullshit is bullshit: be it creationism, homeopathy, or some religious doctrine. If you have a legitimate argument against some humanistic principles (that’s as close as I can get to atheism without sounding ridiculous), shoot away; otherwise, you still have no case.

          • Rwlawoffice

            It is obvious from this entire talk that Fitzgerald  is intolerant of the views held by Mormonism. His attitude reveals it.  That is the definition of bigotry.  Your definitions which would include shunning etc, is simply not part of the definition. If a humanist likes Fitzgerald calls people of religion crackpots, idiots, freakish, etc.  which he does, then he is a bigot.  By the way, his book Nailed, which I have read really shows how amateurish his study of history is.  But just because his history is wrong and his ideas of the truth of Jesus’ existence are flawed, I would not call him a bigot based upon that book.  I would based upon this talk.   

            • Alex

              My definition stems from intolerance. How is disagreement with their theology, however scornful, denying mormons political, social, or professional rights (I’m taking this straight out of M-W, too bad it’s coming to this BS)? How is mocking and exposing lies of their founders hateful towards members of their church?

              He portrays their ridiculous beliefs as ridiculous. You infer that they must be idiots for believing that, not him. Either way, though, if they want to, they are free to (and do) believe those things; nowhere is he saying they are not. I still fail to see how calling someone on their nonsense is intolerant.

              I repeat myself, but if you expect people to treat religious teachings with deference simply because of their status, you’ve come to the wrong place.

  • Skjaere

     I had a few Mormon friends in high school (including a boy I dated for six months when I was 17), and one of my hobbies was genealogy, which was easier to do at the local LDS church using their CD-ROMs at the time, since this was pre-widespread-internet access. I even attended services at the church once. I was interested in the religion, but it was more a morbid fascination than anything more serious.

    I also read a few exposes on the church, including The Mormon Murders and Secret Ceremonies, both of which I found to be gripping reads (haven’t read them in 15 years, so I can’t recall many specifics, and I can’t speak to how accurate their info is). I was especially interested to learn how closely linked Mormonism is with with the Masons.

  • Alex

    Well, let’s see here. On one hand, distrusting Romney’s mormonism is kind of like screaming “OMG, JFK is a catholic!” scaremongering. On another, we have catholics pushing for ban to all abortions and refusing to run adoption services because gay couples may want to adopt, and mormons bankrolling prop 8 in CA and similar measures in other states. There are reasons for opposing these people all the more if they are close adherents to their churches, and good reasons; writing them off immediately to simple bigotry is a dishonest tactic. Unfortunately, it can be a rather effective one, especially with a PC-obsessed crowd.

  • Danial

    I’m actually surprised something like this didn’t happen sooner. Pretty much every Mormon family has someone who doesn’t believe any more. My fiancee’s family does(her!). I’m also surprised that he was so mild in his critique, most Mormon families do not make it easy on their apostates, and the type of person that doesn’t cave is usually stringent in their convictions. The conflict that causes generally leads to people who leave to leave hard and 
     engenders considerable bitterness after the fact. The guy should be commended, maybe he should run. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    That’s OK.  They’ll get him back after he dies.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    The idea of a “High Priest” of anything being President of the United States gives me the fantods.

  • J. R. Boedeker

    OK, so as a person who is atheist but not quite as liberal as many atheists, I have a question.  I’ll over-simplify my political thoughts by saying that I’m not a fan of spending more money than we have.  (Please don’t waste time debating that point; that’s not why we’re here.)
    My question is this:  If an atheist chose to vote Republican, what’s the difference between one flippy religion or another?  Wouldn’t I prefer the more moderate Republican, and, better yet, the one who is not generally supported by the Christian 76.7 percent of America?

  • Michael Caton

    The secular community is going to have to get comfortable with a divide and conquer strategy.  Lots of people are icked out by pointing out to non-Mormon Christians the big divides between Mormonism and other religions.  If you want Romney to lose in November, get ready to point out to your Christian friends and family the details of Mormon religion.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X