WBUR

At Belmont Temple, Romney Was An Influential Leader

The third entry of a six-part series

The Mormon temple in Belmont (aaron.knox/Flickr)

The Mormon temple in Belmont (aaron.knox/Flickr)

BOSTON — A poll by the Pew Research Center says Mitt Romney’s religion will likely cost him support in the Republican primary because many white evangelical Protestants don’t view the Mormon religion as a Christian faith.

Romney was an influential church leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boston for more than a decade. In this report, we look at how his church leadership shaped him.

Church Growth Under Bishop Romney

Romney no longer regularly attends Sunday church services at the Belmont Meeting House*, but his presence is still felt. One reminder is the beautiful pipe organ, which his large donation helped buy.

Romney currently doesn’t hold any leadership positions in the church as he runs for president. But he’s believed to be a Mormon in good standing, which means he gives 10 percent of his pretax income to the church — millions of dollars over the years. He also doesn’t drink or smoke and thus probably has a “temple recommend” card in his wallet. The card has a bar code that allows him entry to any Mormon temple. Even though faith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church play a fundamental role in his life, Romney rarely mentions it.

“My religion is for me and how I live my life,” Romney told an Iowa radio host recently.

For 15 years, Romney was in charge of the spiritual and sometimes practical needs of thousands of Mormons in the Boston area. Church members say he led with patience, built teams to solve problems, and showed deep compassion — characteristics that would make a good president.

“You do get a sense that this man is largely a gentle soul, that’s he’s decent, he’s never rude,” said Robert Draper, a New York Times reporter following Romney on the campaign trail. “But what you don’t get a sense is of his ability to be compassionate on this one-on-one basis.”

Romney oversaw the LDS church in Boston at a time of great growth and challenges. Soon after he became bishop in 1981 at the age of 34, the new meeting house in Belmont mysteriously burned down.

“The building was almost completed,” said Grant Bennett, a Mormon who served as bishop after Romney, when it “caught fire late one night and burned from the front of the chapel down towards the back the of the building.” Almost the entire building was destroyed.

The fire department said the fire was of suspicious origins, but it was never declared arson. But Mormons in the area say there was an undercurrent of religious bigotry. There was also an outpouring of support from many congregations who called Romney and invited him to hold services in their buildings. Romney saw this as an opportunity to build bridges, Bennett says, and took up the offers.

“We actually met in the Catholic St. Josephs Church for a couple of months, we met in the Armenian church for a couple of months, and we met in the Plymouth Congregational Church for a couple of months,” he said.

Still Romney played a key role in coping with anti-Mormon sentiment when it bubbled to the surface again about 10 years later after the church announced plans to build a large temple at the top of Belmont Hill.

Scott Ferson, who is not a Mormon but lives in Belmont, volunteered to help the church with public relations during the controversy over the temple. He says the temple shows how well-respected Romney is in the church.

“To have it selected for this Belmont site,” Ferson said, “really right on Mitt Romney’s backyard leads one to believe that he was instrumental in its location.”

The fight between the LDS church and some town members over the size and height of the steeple continued for years in zoning board meetings and in court. Romney was involved behind the scenes, says Clayton Christensen, a fellow Mormon and a professor at Harvard Business School.

“I remember at a meeting Mitt saying, ‘You know, I could be a force for good or I might be a lightning rod.’ So he gave us good advice but then he kinda stepped aside and let others take the heat,” Christensen chuckled.

Romney friend Clayton Christensen, a fellow Mormon and a professor at Harvard Business School (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Romney friend Clayton Christensen, a fellow Mormon and a professor at Harvard Business School (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Behind closed doors, Romney was very diplomatic, Ferson says.

“He knew that they were going to be able to achieve what they were if they were more accommodating,” Ferson remembered. “He was very patient. I think that’s probably a good skill for Middle East peace, being patient.”

Patience won out. The temple was built with one spire topped by a gold Moroni angel. It’s sometimes called “Mitt’s Temple” by people in Belmont.

Romney’s Spiritual Counsel

To understand Romney is to understand the tenets of the Mormon Church, which he clearly demonstrates in his character. Service and teamwork are two central themes. As bishop, he organized the all-volunteer network of the church and was elevated to what’s called stake president, giving him oversight of about a dozen congregations. It’s too much work for one person who also has a job and family. So Ron Scott, a journalist, distant cousin and biographer of Romney, says Romney always had a strong team.

“It’s almost a spiritual representation of what you learn in business school: the more you can involve the team, the more you can engage the team, the better the team functions,” Scott said. “You get that fairly early in Mormonism. It’s really Mormonism 101.”

The bishop doesn’t give sermons during church services; they’re given by members. But they are a spiritual beacon of sorts, counseling church members on problems with employment, drug addiction and relationships. And as bishop, Romney seemed to sense when someone needed a boost, Christensen says. He remembers one night when he and his wife were feeling overwhelmed by their church duties, three kids under the age of 5 and a new house and job. He heard a knock at the door.

“And Mitt Romney knocks on the door and said, ‘Can I come in?’ He said, ‘I was driving home and I just had a feeling that God has a message for you. And he can’t get to you directly ’cause you’re too tired, but the message is that God loves you. And that he’s happy with what you are doing for other people.’ ”

Christensen tears up again at the memory. Many other Mormons tell similar stories of how Romney helped them.

But there are a few detractors. Scott, who wrote an independent biography, says a woman in Romney’s congregation told him Romney tried to persuade her not to have an abortion, even though she had a life-threatening condition. Her doctor and the Mormon stake president, a church position above Bishop Romney, had already advised her to get an abortion.

“Into the picture walked Mitt and he took a fairly aggressive stance: carry the baby to term,” Scott said. “People have seen that as being a sign of a fairly heartless, imperious kind of guy, or was he simply just being overly zealous in the way he was trying to lead and to provide moral counsel to someone in his charge, counsel that was consistent with what he perceived to be the teachings of his church?”

Romney’s counseling provides a window into his complicated stance on abortion. As a Mormon it shows he’s opposed to it. But when he was governor he supported a woman’s right to choose. Now as a Republican presidential candidate he is squarely anti-abortion.

As leader of the LDS church in Belmont, Romney’s compassion, patience and teamwork were focused primarily on other Mormons. That might explain why church members know a different side of him than he’s shown on the campaign trail, where he’s frequently seen as smug and distant. Christensen says maybe that’s because people perceive Romney as being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

“I think that people look at how handsome he is, how articulate he is, and you say, he hasn’t experienced life, and oh my gosh, I think he has experienced a more difficult side of life,” he said.

The difficult side he saw as a counselor to troubled church members. Romney’s challenge will be tapping into what he learned as a Mormon leader, without drawing too much attention to his religion.


Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier Web version of this story identified that Sunday services take place at the Boston Massachusetts Temple. It is the Belmont Meeting House.

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  • Anonymous

    With reference to your third paragraph, there are no Sunday services in LDS Temples so Mitt Romney never did attend “Sunday church services at the Boston Massachusetts Temple in Belmont.”  All LDS Temples are closed on Sundays.  Sunday church services are held in Chapels which have a completely different function than Temples. 

    I expect you would know that if you really did your homework on this.  It is disappointing that you didn’t.

    • Terriebittner

      This is a pretty common mistake and not a big deal. In my own post on it, I simply corrected it without presuming anything else. The author did do a good job of researching–you’ll notice she interviewed active, practicing Mormons, which is something a lot of reporters don’t do. As a religion writer, I can assure you it is very, very hard to write about other religions. There are so many tiny details and subtleties that can be gotten wrong. If you’re not a testimony-holding member of a religion, you are almost certain to get a few things wrong. Let’s be gentle :)

      • Anonymous

        We have added a correction to the story. Just to clarify, the error was an editing error, not a reporting error. The broadcast version identified it as the Belmont Meeting House. Thanks for your comments.

  • Terriebittner

    Just a couple of notes on a nicely done article. Mormon temples are closed on Sundays, so Romney never worshipped in one on Sundays. Sunday worship is held in meetinghouses, which are open to the public. The temples are attended on whatever schedule members choose–most try to go about once a month–but always on a weekday.

    In addition, I have read the abortion story’s source is highly questionable. Official church teachings on abortion are that it is not to be used electively as birth control, but it is permitted when the mother’s life is in danger and under certain other rare conditions. The church does not counsel women on how to make the decision in those rare situations–they are instructed to pray for guidance. So it’s not likely Mitt Romney tried to force someone to have a life-threatening abortion. That was not within the scope of his assignment. I am always suspicious of stories that circulate with no name attached. As written, there is no way to find out if the story is true–it’s just gossip right now, and one that is not in character, really, based on what I’ve read about him and his church service.

    • Pilgrim

      The way I read the abortion counseling story, it was Scott quoting a woman who said her friend had this experience with Romney.  That’s third-hand hearsay and has no value or integrity at all.  My own conviction is that Romney is the best candidate for U.S. President I have seen in my 72 years.  Education, native intelligence, experience in the public and private sector, pragmatism, moral character – there is no one who comes even close.  And those qualities do not include the sensitivity and compassion one learns from being an LDS bishop.  I am married to a good man (a college professor) who served 5 years as a bishop.  As do all bishops, he dealt with members’ financial issues, marital issues, parenting issues, addiction issues – the whole gamut.  That one-on-one counseling experience provides a sterling education in kindness, compassion, and acceptance of human frailty.  Imagine a president with that kind of experience.  What a change that would be!

      • RB Scott

        Pilgrim:  I did not rely on third hand information for the book.  I quoted the woman and her 90–somemthing year old father directly.  Both were named.  Years ago, before Mitt ran for the Senate in 1994, the woman wrote anonymously about he incident for Exponent II, a publication aimed at Mormon women.  It was an issue in the 1994 campaign.  The report in the book is more complete and it was thoroughly checked out.

    • RB Scott

      Terriebittner:   The source for the abotion story was the woman herself.  She is identified by name in the book, which you, obviously, have not read.  She was a tithe-paying, engaged Mormon at the time of the incident.  If you feel comfortable suggesting that she “is highly questionable”  be my guest.  Where I come from, such comments would be treated as destructive idle gossip

      • Anonymous

        One problem is that we are hearing the woman’s side of the story but not the other side.  Mormon Bishops and Stake Presidents keep a policy of privacy in such matters.  I am not saying the woman’s story is inaccurate but the other side does not get a fair hearing.   If there is a discrepancy between the two sides a difference in the way the two parties remember events there is no way for us to see that.

    • RB Scott

      Read the book.  The abortion story is well sourced, sources are named, the credibility and claims woman were carefully checked out and even-handedly presented as well.  Read the book.

  • Eharmerdionne

    Thank you for a balanced segment.  One correction:  Moroni is pronounced with a long “i” at the end, not a long “e” sound.  :-)

    I have had the misfortune to be interviewed by Ron Scott (Romney’s so-called “biographer”), who contacted me year ago under somewhat deceptive circumstances.  I found him to be quite aggressive, and I don’t trust him at all.  He definitely has an axe to grind against Mormonism.  I do not consider him a reputable source on the abortion story.

    • AlexT

      Scott is a professional journalist, formerly
      with Time and Life magazines. Perhaps Ms. Dionne you should describe in detail
      the alleged “deceptive circumstances” that colored your view of Mr.
      Scott. As I understand it – and I was Scott’s researcher on the book — you
      were the one who tried to use Church lists in order to organize groups against gay rights.  The reason you are upset is because Mr. Scott called you out on it in
      print.

       

      To continue to lay the facts out there, Scott’s book indicates that years ago the woman
      who underwent the emergency abortion wrote anonymously about her encounter with
      Mr. Romney in a publication called Exponent II, an independent
      publication aimed at Mormon women. She and her 90-year-old father were
      recently re-interviewed on the record for the book, as were others, and she and her father
      are named in the book.  

       

      As for his “axe to grind against Mormonism,”
      Scott is a life-long, fifth generation Mormon and is a leader of his local
      congregation. You may want to check your facts before you make such personal attacks Sister Dionne. 

      • Eharmerdionne

        I have never used church lists for any personal purpose, political or otherwise.  That is strictly against church policy, and I cannot let this false and defamatory statement against me stand unanswered.  I have contacted people personally known to me about causes in which I believe they are interested.  Most have welcomed the contact.  A few have asked not to be contacted about the particular matter.  In every instance, I have honored that request.

    • Island Guy

      Eharmerdionne – “He definitely has an axe to grind against Mormonism.”  That is hilarious since Mr Scott in his book and in many interviews is a life long Mormon and is currently active in the leadership of his church. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think missing golden plates are any sillier than virgin births and resurections, but I’m concerned by the Mormon Church’s influence on Romney’s (currently) very socially conservative positions and the story should have investigated that more.  The church’s bigoted work to deprive gay citizens of equal marriage rights is scary. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3WSQ2S4HXMTWZTTQEMYY4NAVTE Fred E.

      No it is not scary not out of line to preserve or conserve our society and the institution of marriage as it has stood for 6000 years. It is wrong for anyone to discriminate against those who choose a different life style. All people have the same right to marry one person of the opposite sex, that is not discrimination. I would ask the question why has this position you take just now began to be a concern in the last very few years? As you have the right to believe and support what you will so do your fellow citizens who choose a different course from yours. You may live your life as you will. I do and I do not attempt to force my private on you. I keep it private. 

      • Anonymous

        How are granting equal rights forcing one’s private life on others?  Claiming that there is no discrimination to marry as one can marry an oposite sex partner is silly.  The institution of marriage has changed throughout history (should be obvious in an article on the LDS church) so your 6,000 year claim is suspect.  Marriage is public for heterosexuals too. 

    • Anonymous

      It would seem that the  Church of Jesus Christ of Latte-day Saints has little influence on Politicians  who are members of the Church.  All you have to do is look at Harry Reid to see that.

    • Island Guy

      As a recovering “Mormon” (which I was never taught was a bad word, we actually embraced it when I was growing up) I agree with you that the church did some very bigoted work in California and you will see Romney was nowhere near this, and didn’t donate or support it at all. 

      Unofortunately Romney has to pander to the crazy evangelicals to win a national election but I think once he is in office you will see he is WAY more moderate than he or his religon expresses.

      Nature of the political beast I suppose.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UUNNNDAWWG57V4NWYLN7INS47E trouble shooter

    Did you know the title “Mormon” is a slang word given to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by those of the hoodlums of the nation who even put a bounty on the head of any member?  Now you’d have a snit if I referred to Obama as an N>>>   which is equal to Mormon.  Mormon is meant to be insulting?   You’d advocate voting for a N…….. whose entire life could be in question but not for Romney who is without blemish?    All who take the stand against him as you suggest are absolute BIGOTS

  • Anonymous

    Monica, I applaud your professionalism. You did a lot of research and really presented a honest and balanced story which is rare for someone reporting on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or it’s members.

    As stated your only typo is that you state Mitt worshiped in the Boston Massachuestts temple on Sundays. Temples are only open Tuesday-Saturday, Sunday and Monday they are closed. Sunday’s because it is the Sabbath a sacred day to worship God at our chapels and serve our community. Monday’s because every Monday evening per the council of the First Presidency of the Church (the highest spiritual leadership) LDS families gather for Family Home Evening which allows families to spend an evening together each week to study, have fun, and grow closer as families.

    Since the Church believes that these weekly family home evenings are of the most importance, no buildings, meetings, or events are scheduled on Mondays Churchwide to prevent conflict with the Family Home Evening.

    Now that I have explained that in too much detail, let me also point out that the abortion story published about Mitt has no source, no supporting evidence, and comes from a very unfriendly source. It’s credibility is zero, if a Stake President had given council to this Sister a loyal Mormon would not question there leaders council or controdict it.

    We believe that our Leaders recieve revelation from God concerning the council they give to members, we also believe that a subordinate cannot recieve revelation contrary to the revelation from a superior like the Stake President. Is it impossible that the event happened in some form, yes. The story punished though is not constant with Church Standards though.

    Now Romeny has had a less than consistent platform on abortion. It is a very emotional and controversial subject. His changes over time to me show that he actually cares and has learned and grown as we all do on our positions over time. It is the “holier than thou” unbending, narrow mindedness of the pro-life/pro-abortion groups that is sickening. Call him a flip flopper if you want but I call it being open minded and learning from past experience and lessons.

    • Anonymous

      As stated in previous comments, we have added a correction to the story on the temple. Just to clarify, the error was an editing error, not a reporting error. The broadcast version identified it as the Belmont Meeting House. Thanks for your comment.

    • BostonMormon

      The story on the abortion should be better cited than it is here. See the very similar and more in depth NYT story on Mitt’s time as bishop and stake president. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/us/politics/for-romney-a-role-of-faith-and-authority.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all

      The same story is told with non-anonymous quotes from both the women counselled and  female leadership involved at the time in both the NYT piece and the book referenced in the article by Scott.  The NYT piece really ought to be referenced in WBUR article as it seems to draw very heavily from it in both content and structure.  The NYT article I feel is also very balanced and anyone interested in this article should go there for a more in depth treatment.Anyway it is incredibly simplistic to say in your comment that Mitt as a bishop might give different counsel than the stake president.  A bit surprising perhaps, but definitely not unheard of.  Local leadership disagrees agrees all the time in the LDS church. Especially in Boston, I might add.  Again see the NYT article for instances of Romney disagreeing with his higher-ups and trying to run interference for the local wards who were drawing unwanted attention.  While a strong hierarchy is present within the church there are ample opportunities for people to disagree and resist pressure from higher ups.    I would like a source for the assertion that the stake president counselled for the abortion which is not something referred to in the NYT article.  Maybe that comes from Scott’s book? 

      • RB Scott

        The primary source for the New York Times report on the abortion matter was Scott’s book. Ditto the WBUR report.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UUNNNDAWWG57V4NWYLN7INS47E trouble shooter

    The ‘Mormon’ brand A decade ago, as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City approached, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched an all-out effort to stop the word “Mormon” from being used in the mainstream.

  • Anonymous

    You are partially right and very wrong also. Mormon was a term coined by those who persecuted the Church because of our acceptance of the Book of Mormon as a additional witness of Jesus Christ.

    That was 180 years ago thought and the Church has long forgiven those offenses against it and it’s membership by the State of Missouri, the State of Illinois, the US Federal Governement, and those who individually attacked or persecuted the Church or it’s members.

    While the Church does prefer the media to use the official name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead of the commonly used Mormon Church, the openly accept the members or media referring to members as Mormons or Saints.

    It is not profane, offensive, or improper to call Mitt Romeny a Mormon. No more than it is to call Mitt Romeny or any other person of a Christan denomination a Christian. Yet almost 2,000 years ago the word Christian was a slur against tha ancient Saints that followed the teachings or Christ from the ancient Appstles. Today though both Christian and Mormon are both accepted nicknames for members of our faith.

    Yes, if you insist on living in the past instead of allowing Christ to heal old wounds Mormon is a slur as offensive as other slurs. But through the atonement of Jesus Christ all wounds can be healed and all slurs can lose there sting.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UUNNNDAWWG57V4NWYLN7INS47E trouble shooter

      I beg your pardon, Patrick:   This was headline just today:

      The ‘Mormon’ brand A decade ago, as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City approached, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched an all-out effort to stop the word “Mormon” from being used in the mainstream.

      • Boo In Boston

        What the report today doesn’t note, trouble shooter, is that effort ten years ago was quickly abandoned.  Plus, the Mormon president at the time, Gordon B. Hinckley, said he “quite liked” Mormon.  I do as well.  However, initially, it was intended initially as a slur.  Mormons have a way of turning pejorative frowns upside down and smiling the negatives away.

  • Karenroset

    Thanks, Monica, for posting this article that reflects just a small portion of the genuine Christian man behind the campaign.

    (I agree with the remarks posted below in regard to the un-named person who claimed to have been counseled differently.)

  • Thad Gillespie

    Did you mean to say “tenant” or “tenet?” I think you meant tenet.

    • WBUR

      Yes. Thanks. That’s been fixed.

  • Charleston Voice
    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3WSQ2S4HXMTWZTTQEMYY4NAVTE Fred E.

      All of the propaganda individuals spread such as yourself really takes away your creditability and reveals to me that you are lacking in integrity Charleston.

  • Sue

    When I study all of the republican candidates who are running for president the most important trait I look for is that of integrity. Someone who lives his values in word and deed in business as well as religion and family life. To the forefront comes the name of Mitt Romney.It is very sad that people are using his religious affiliation instead of his character to decide whether they will vote for him.

    I have lived long enough to remember when people looked at John F. Kennedy and asked if he could be voted for because he was Catholic. Why did we not question Barack Obama when he was running. He has a history of not being Christian and actually exclaiming that he was so he could run for president.

    If that isn’t two faced or flip-flopping I don’t know what is.

    Study the facts look at the man and then decide who has the integrity to run this country. We haven’t seen this caliber of intetrigy which Mitt Romney shows in a long-long time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3WSQ2S4HXMTWZTTQEMYY4NAVTE Fred E.

    This article is a good one but it also makes a statement about Mitt that is taken out of context. I have never seen the accusation that Mitt Romney was pro abortion in any other context.
    First in order to understand one must understand what a latter-day saint is saying when he expresses that he is for women rights. It’s not just women’s rights he is for but for the right of everyone to choose their own course in life we as saints call that agency the right to choose between good and evil. The context that is taken in during his time in office he says he supported women’s rights he didn’t say he supported abortion. Two different phrases were used one meaning one thing the other meaning a different thing. It is obvious as he served as Bishop that he was against abortion. I don’t see a flip flop in that just twisted words fashioned to suit the author’s needs to get there message out. They are working overtime to get something they believe that will destroy Mitt’s reputation in order to keep him from correcting the major problems we as a nation faces. What is the most important preserving our nation or keeping a saint (a Mormon) out of the oval office?

    • RB Scott

      Hey Fred, no one I have read suggests that Mitt ever supported elective abortions.  Nor did Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, so far as I know.  However, all three — Romney, Clinton, and Obama — supported a pregnant woman’s right to make the choice for herself.  All three supported the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.   Romney abandoned his overt support for “Choice” and “Roe v. Wade” after he was elected governor of Massachusetts.  However, he remains inconsistent on where he stands regards “morning after” treatments and  dealing with  excess, unneeded  embryos created through In Vitro Fertilization processes.  No doubt he is trying to sort things out.  This is good.  These are complex, nuanced issues.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/lRqfxupwl_tf6KPcaMzXOu2ugW14AAYX#3094f widemouth

    What’s underneath the magic Mormon underwear?  - Exposed http://www.squidoo.com/mormon-church

    • Boo In Boston

      Nothing you’ll ever touch!

  • Coltakashi

    Thanks for an accurate story about Romney’s volunteer service in the LDS Church. I wouldf only add that Romney was devoting a thousand hours a year for ten years to unpaid service to others at the same time he was building his own business. Most men in his position would put all that time into ensuring their fortune. Romney demonstrated that serving people is more important to him than making money. Indeed, unlike Warren Buffett who continued to build his wealth throughout his life, Romney has been concentrating on public service for the last decade. He has also been donating much of his income, not only to his church and to Brigham Young University, but also to other charities.

    Romney is not motivated by the income that a presidential candidate can earn from speaking fees, book sales, or having a TV show. He sincerely believes he can do a better job in the White House than Obama and the other Republicans candidates.

    • Anonymous

      Who said that Romney’s candidacy is motivated by money?  He is already rich.  And he made that money ruthlessly.  I’d rather have someone cash in with a book instead of leaving a trail of layoffs and bankruptcies from his pursuit of wealth. 

  • seethingsclearly

    How convenient it is for Mr. Romney to say “My religion is
    for me and how I live my life,” as if he were reassuring us religion is a
    private matter only.  Would that it were
    so.  Romney likes to cast himself in the
    mold of John F. Kennedy, who pointedly said that his Roman Catholicism, with
    its presumed allegiance to the Pope, would not be a factor in his public decisions.  But like much else that the highly ambitious
    Mr. Romney says, this statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  It reminds me of the disingenuous claim of
    John Roberts, during his confirmation hearings for Chief Justice of the U.S.
    Supreme Court, that he would merely be an “umpire” as opposed to someone who
    makes the rules, as if there were no such thing as interpreting the law
    according to one’s values.  (Different
    umpires have different conceptions of the strike zone, a fact that demolishes Roberts’s
    simplistic analogy.)

     

    It would be credulous indeed to suppose that Romney as
    president would keep to himself his religious ideas rather than apply them to a
    host of issues affecting the general public. 
    To take one important example:  The
    Mormons, Romney included, have been anything but private in their vigorous fight
    to deny homosexuals equal treatment under the law.  The most notorious example of that fight
    occurred when they butted into California’s
    politics in 2008 and were instrumental in overturning a landmark same-sex
    marriage law there.

     

    Romney clearly wants to avoid discussion of his beliefs,
    which include many fanciful and demonstrably false notions such as the idea
    that the American Indians are a lost tribe of Israel,
    and is quick to dismiss any hint of critical inquiry into them as bigotry.   But there
    is a reason so many people want to question the Mormon religion.  Its history is a highly checkered one in
    regard to such things as racism, enshrined as it in scripture (see http://truthandgrace.com/Racism.html
    for examples) and supported by none other than the founder of the sect himself,
    Joseph Smith, and his chief disciple, Brigham Young.  Indeed, Mormon opposition to homosexual
    rights today is an echo of Mormon opposition to civil rights for African
    Americans during the 1950’s and 1960’s. 
    The highly conservative Church stood on the wrong side of history then and does so again
    today. 

     

    In sum, this is a timid article that sidesteps controversy.  Those voters impressed by
    Romney’s clean-cut “brand” (that word reveals just how much elections have
    become advertising campaigns) ought to ponder how else his all-encompassing
    beliefs might make their way inexorably into his decisions, with decidedly
    unpleasant results.

     

     

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