Manchurian mormon?

Mitt Romney needs to answers basic questions about potential conflicts between his religious vows and his prospective presidential vows.

Seth Redniss
11 September 2012

We would never elect a rabbi, priest or ayatollah President. It would be a violation of the separation between church and state, and it would be un-American. Yet, Romney, who has served in leadership positions in his church as a bishop, priest and deacon, may be sworn to uphold church doctrine.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being religious; the problem is that religious perfectionists cannot simultaneously function as secular perfectionists.

Facts seem to support Romney's consistent elevation of church needs over national or mainstream ones. Here are some of the matchups: 

Wartime Matchup: Church vs. U.S. Army (1965 - 1969) In 1965, Romney sought to avoid going to Vietnam and applied for an exemption from military service on the basis that he was a "Minister of Religion". He received this and multiple additional deferments. Instead of fighting for his country, he chose to evangelize for his church in France. Why? If his church denounces a future war, will Romney act against his church's position?

Racial Matchup: Church vs. African Americans (1947 - 1978) From his birth until 1978 (when Romney was 31 and had lived through the civil rights movement), blacks were ranked lower than whites in his church (and, related to the above issue, were more likely to be drafted). They had to give a chunk of annual income to the church but were not allowed to be priests. Did Romney ever protest this apartheid? 

Jordan River Utah Temple

Mormon Temple in Utah. Flickr/Altus Photo Design. Some rights reserved.

Family Matchup: Church vs. Ann Romney's Father (1993) Edward Davies, Ann Romney's father, shunned organized religion and refused to join Romney's church. Just a year after Mr. Davies' death in 1992, the Romney family posthumously converted Mr. Davies through a proxy baptism. Besides being a highly inventive way to get back at your in-laws, what message does this send about respect for the dead and for other religions?

Religious Matchup: Church vs. Judaism (1947 - Present) Romney's church has baptized millions of dead people into their faith, including Holocaust victims such as Anne Frank. Romney has admitted to participating in these ceremonies and won't disown the practice. Does the economic benefit of swelling the church's vast genealogical database, a Facebook to the Dead, outweigh the negative associations of manipulating the personal information of millions of families?

2012 Election Matchup: Church vs. Tax Returns (2012 - Present) In Parade magazine's August 26th issue, Romney based his refusal to disclose tax returns on his church's policy of not disclosing its finances. Again, loyalty to church trumps precedent of full disclosure set by three decades of candidates (including his own father) to fully disclose. His church is very economically ambitious. Shouldn't a President go out of his way to assure voters that Oval Office decisions are appropriately delinked from his church's finances?

Given Romney's lifelong religious and financial twinning with his church, it's fair for voters to expect some transparency as to the potential conflicts between a President's obligations to his country and church.

How can Americans fight dark money and disinformation?

Violence, corruption and cynicism threaten America's flagging democracy. Joe Biden has promised to revive it – but can his new administration stem the flow of online disinformation and shady political financing that has eroded the trust of many US voters?

Hear from leading global experts and commentators on what the new president and Congress must do to stem the flood of dark money and misinformation that is warping politics around the world.

Join us on Thursday 21 January, 5pm UK time/12pm EST.

Hear from:

Emily Bell Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism and director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

Anoa Changa Journalist focusing on electoral justice, social movements and culture

Peter Geoghegan openDemocracy investigations editor and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Josh Rudolph Fellow for Malign Finance at the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy 

Further speakers to be announced

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData