Last week the local SSA discussed the intersection of religion and politics and how we thought about secularism and government. It wasn’t to endorse or attack a party or candidate, but more abstract. At that time, my thought was that I wasn’t particularly worried about the faith positions of Obama or Romney. Sure they are both believers, but they are not necessarily legislating their beliefs. Even if they have a person, religious reason for some policy, so long as it is argued based on its secular purpose, I have no problem. And I didn’t think that for Romney, being a Mormon, that it would be a significant issue; I didn’t see magic underwear coming into play. I wasn’t even so scared of particular policies since he changes his stance so much. Far more was I worried about the coattails effect, that his election would help bring in many right-wing Christians that would legislated based on their faith. I don’t want people in office that are okay with rape babies because of God’s will or being able to kill children based on biblical interpretation. I also worry about people getting elected onto school boards that would push historical revisionism, creationism, and abstinence-only sex ed (i.e. Texas). So, I was less worried about Romney’s Mormonism than his election having these side effects.
But I think I have to change my opinion on that. From a few things that have recently come out, Romney’s religious beliefs do worry me, and he does in fact legislate on it.
First, a bit of news from when he was governor of Massachusetts. While it is known that Romney has been against same-sex marriage, I was surprised about some of the things done in his state under his leadership. Back in 2003, the Mass. Supreme Court ruled that marriage between gay couples was legally recognized, something that he opposed. To comply with this new legal decision, some paperwork had to be done for couples that wanted to adopt and were homosexual. The birth certificates had to be adjusted from having the “father” sign to “father or second partner.” Simple change, right? Apparently, Romney would not allow this, rejecting the plan for the new forms, demanding the Registry of Vital Records review the matter, making it so the governor’s legal team was the force that had to be convinced to allow clerks and others to properly get the paperwork done for gay adoptions. The Boston Globe has the story more fully. The point? It prevented or at least impeded gay couples from adopting.
So here we have a clear case of Romney’s beliefs about the family unit, informed by his religious convictions, to impede on the rights of gay couples that the court in his own state said they had. Compare this to Obama, who had initially been cool toward allowing gay marriage, but he is in support for gay adoption; Romney says “think of the children!” and “leave it up to the states.” (Those are not actual quotes, just summary of the notions.) Obama does believe marriage is about man and woman, but he would not legislate that. Romney said he would try to have a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriages (so much for state decisions?!?).
In case you don’t believe there is a Mormon connection, the LDS excommunicates those found to engage in homosexual activities, and the LDS church spend millions of dollars in California to support Proposition 8 to reverse California’s law that allowed gay marriage.
But are Romney’s religious beliefs limited to homosexuals? Apparently it also matters when it comes to abortion. And other things. A 2007 interview that originally didn’t go to air has been going around a number of blogs recently. And it should.
In there, Romney tells how the Mormon church is completely against abortion, but tries to be politically competent, saying how it won’t tell others outside the faith what they should do. Romney is more strict; he doesn’t think abortion should be the way to go for anyone. He is taking his beliefs more seriously and publicly than his church. (Also see some discussion here.)
Oh, and I shouldn’t just call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints his “church.” Romney is a bishop. (Reports on this here and here.) He was a leader in the church, not just a laymen. He’s not just Mormon, but very Mormon. And that showed in the video.
It seems that Romney doesn’t want to talk about his faith too much, besides showing how much a social conservative he is because of it, appeasing the religious right (and recently Billy Graham who supports Romney and took down the “Mormonism is a Cult” links from his website). It sounds crazy that Jesus will rule the world from Missouri, and there are plenty of other strange things in the church, much of it even denied to its followers, let alone outsiders. (A small summary of that can be seen on this PBS webpage (is this why Romney hates Big Bird?).) Mormons seem to take particular offence to talk of problems of their history or theology (and Mormons are not to look for anti-Mormon information, but to remain on lds.org for life), and it looks Romney is much the same. No wonder he won’t talk about the postmortem baptisms of Holocaust victims (along with others, such as his atheist father-in-law), why the LDS church didn’t allow black clergy until the 1970s, let alone the issues of Native Americans as a lost tribe of Jews (they’re not!), how Joseph Smith was a convicted liar even before starting his cult, and God lives on the planet Kolob (that’s Kobol for you BSG fans) based on a clearly false translation Smith made up.
Romney believes in his faith, and strongly it would seem. He has held some of its highest leadership positions, tithes, and had used his political power to make his faith policy. He already shows he will not do well when it comes to separation of church and state (see the SCA scorecard here, which may need to be revised more negatively now for the Republican). Since there are plenty of religious groups saying a vote for Obama is a vote against God, perhaps something of the reverse can be said for secular folks: a vote for Romney is a vote against religious liberty and rational politics. That’s not an endorsement for Obama, but I’m not voting third-party.
Make your own choice, but don’t give the people that would move the country back a century the reigns of power next week. Please?