Hugh thinks Al Mohler, James Dobson, and I are religious bigots.
No, I don’t. James Dobson and Al Mohler are friends of mine, and I admire both men a great deal. I have never written or said anything remotely like that, and I reject that. I did discuss Mitt Romney’s faith with Al Mohler for my book, and his comments are recorded there. They are not bigoted. They are very careful articulations of narrow concerns, and an objective discussion of the differences between faiths, nested in an openness to voting for Romney and the declaration that “the issue is the worldview held by the candidate and what difference that would make materially in his leadership of the nation.” Dr. Dobson has said nothing except the empirically true statement that Romney’s LDS faith will be a problem for some evangelicals. I wrote the book because of the dangers of having questions about Romney’s faith become occasions for attacks on the Mormon Church which will then become wider attacks on the idea of people of faith being in the public square. The assault on people of faith being full participants in the politics of this country has been underway for decades, and the secular left celebrates every attack on Romney’s faith as part of the effort to turn the weak flank of the coalition of people of faith that has operated on so many issues, including most recently and visibly, the defense of marriage.
Dobson and Mohler are in fact models for the appropriate way to discuss Romney’s faith. So is Chuck Colson. So is Archbishop Chaput. So are Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meachem, and all of them are quoted in the book. It isn’t bigoted to note the vast gulf between what Mormons believe and what evangelicals and Catholics believe. It is bigoted to say that Mormon beliefs disqualify Mormons from politics or office. It is also outside of the American tradition to question presidential candidates about the theological positions of their church or personal faith. We aren’t electing a pope or a pastor-in-chief, but a president. Only religious bigots argue that belief in the supernatural makes a candidate unfit for office. The evidence for these assertions is voluminous and all in the book. If you have misgivings about voting for Romney because of his faith, Iurge you to read it. If you hesitate to articulate those concerns out loud, I suggest there’s an internal warning light going off in your mind that is saying to you “That sounds a lot like anti-Semites sound? Do I want to sound –or far more importantly– think that way?”
I blasted Erickson a few days back for a specific paragraph he had written in his review of my book. I then had him on the radio show and he backpeddled furiously from the obvious flaws in this paragaph which in fact made him sound bigoted –specifically the assertion that increased Mormon participation in politics in response to a Romney candidacy was an occasion for probing Romney’s theology, and much worse, a reason for “concern” as though Mormons were some sort of fifth column at work in the country. Read it for yourself, and then read the interview, especially this exchange:
HH: [Y]ou seem to endorse the idea that previously illegitimate questions can be raised, simply because they’re on the lips of some people you know. For example, could we raise anti-Semitic slurs of supporters of Joe Lieberman, like, you know, don’t you people run Hollywood and all the banks? Aren’t you really in charge of…
EE: That’s not what I’m saying, and I’m sorry if you took that from me. What I’m saying is that there are people who are going to be raising these questions, and so…
HH: And they ought to be slapped down.
EE: Well, exactly.
HH: Shouldn’t you slap down bigotry?
EE: I agree with you, but I really took from the tone of your book, and maybe it was my mistake, that we should just start saying this is not acceptable, and we should say that, probably, but at the same time, we need to recognize it’s going to happen, and we need to be telling people that this isn’t right, that we shouldn’t be judging this man by his religion.
It is bigoted to say I will not vote for a Mormon because Mormons believe [fill in the blank]. Neither Dobson nor Mohler has said anything like that. Jacob Weisberg writing in Slate has. Damon Linker writing in The New Republic has. It was also bigoted to say that increased Mormon participation in politics is a reason for “concern.” Erick wrote that, not Dobson or Mohler, and neither ever would.
Bottom line: If you want to study up on the Mormons, fine. There is nothing biogted about genuine curioisty, and certainly there is nothing bigoted about a spirited debate between two faiths about which one is right and which one wrong. But Romney isn’t the guy to ask for input on that debate, and asking him isn’t really curiosity about Mormonism, it is a sneak attack on his candidacy by attacking his faith as different from most Americans and thus of “concern.”Attempting also to disqualify Romney because he won’t debate theology or answer personal questions about his religious practices is like saying you wouldn’t vote for Rudy because he won’t tell you when he last went to Confession: Goofy, and yes, bigoted, as in the Webster’s definition of the word: “extreme intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion.”