op-ed

Romney and Reid: Does Mormonism matter in politics?

Paul Skousen Contributor

For various reasons the Mormon Church has become established in some people’s thinking as the knee-jerk monster mind-melder whenever Mormons run for office.

Just its mere mention is apparently sufficient to discredit everything else a member of that church does or says.

The stupefying disconnect is this: If Mitt Romney is such a threat because of his Mormon background, what about Harry Reid, who is also a practicing Mormon? How can their two opposing political viewpoints be reconciled in a common religion if that religion somehow plays a role in their politics?

Put another way, how can religion be guilty of some sort of controlling influence if two members of the same church are at opposite ends of the political spectrum?

The same question must be asked of John Kennedy: Did he take orders from the Pope? Do Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee counsel in secret with the Southern Baptist Convention? Do Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush conjure up the ghost of John Wesley? And do Harry Reid and Mitt Romney take orders from Salt Lake City?

Like everyone else, these politicians are products of their own choices.

Harry Reid is a Latter-day Saint in good standing. He attends church on Sundays whenever possible and is reportedly active in his church. Acquaintances say he is a good and kind man.

However, Reid’s voting record in Congress goes against his church’s positions on key issues.

Abortion: Harry Reid supports abortion — the LDS Church opposes it, as do the Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and Muslims, along with Mitt Romney.

Gay marriage: Harry Reid supports gay marriage. The LDS Church does not, nor do the other mainstream religions — or Mitt Romney.

Gambling: Harry Reid’s big supporters and donors in Las Vegas were unions, owners and employees of casinos. The LDS Church rejects gambling and won’t take donations from casinos, nor do other world religions — or Mitt Romney.

Cheap shots: Harry Reid engages in character assassination and smear campaigns. The LDS Church stands for decency, honesty, and ethical behavior, and rejects pointless ad hominem attacks, as do other mainstream religions — and Mitt Romney.

Debt: Harry Reid supports deficit spending, reckless borrowing and running up huge debts. The LDS Church admonishes its members to pay as you go, stay out of debt, and save so that they can help other people in need — a position held by other major religions and Mitt Romney.

Religion is a deeply held belief system that helps bad people become good and good people become better. Does that mean those with no religious affiliation are automatically suspect? If so, then a re-evaluation of people like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Pierce, and Rutherford B. Hayes must be undertaken at once.

What did the Founders say?

The Founders saw religion used throughout history as both a divisive weapon to oppress people and a great unifying power to achieve in a person’s own heart those constraints and good behaviors that no manner of laws, regulations and police forces could ever manage.

The Founders took steps to keep the positive elements of religion alive in American culture — but absent from the corrupting institutions of partisan government actions.

“The American religion”

In “The Five Thousand Year Leap,” W. Cleon Skousen cites the Founders’ position on religion in America and their emphasis on teaching the five fundamentals of “all sound religion,” as Franklin called them: 1) There is a Creator, 2) The Creator has revealed a moral code for happy living that distinguishes right from wrong, 3) People are held responsible for the way they treat each other, 4) People live beyond this life, 5) In the next life people are judged for their conduct in this one.

These five tenets run through practically all of the Founders’ writings, and are sometimes referred to as the “religion of America.” The Founders felt these were so important, they wanted them taught in public schools along with morality and knowledge. Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance, passed the very same year the Constitution was written (1787), and by that very same Congress, states: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

John Adams called these tenets the “general principles” on which the American civilization had been founded.

Thomas Jefferson called these beliefs the principles “in which God has united us all.”

And Washington’s comment is better understood in this context when he said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

Coming soon to an opinion near you

With the 2012 primaries unofficially underway, the Bible Wars are already stirring to life. The debates about candidates’ religious affiliations will never go away, but a casualty in these arguments is giving enough attention to a man or woman’s benchmark of character, wisdom, and integrity.

As the cheap shots begin to fly, it is this nation’s duty to not be distracted or lose sight of the candidates’ true allegiance: Do they stand for freedom which is God-centered, or do they stand for socialism which is not?

Paul B. Skousen is a former analyst for the CIA, an intelligence officer in the Reagan White House, and staffer for Senator Orrin Hatch. He has interviewed on Fox News and was featured by Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story about smuggling Oliver North’s shredded secrets from the White House. He is a journalist and published author, and the son of W. Cleon Skousen, author of The Five Thousand Year Leap. He is a national Constitution Coach and senior editor with PowerThink Publishing, LLC. Website: www.powerthink.com. Email: paul@powerthink.com.