Bigotry or No Bigotry? That is the question!

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Mitt and Ann Romney

The day before Mitt lost the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on 13 March, the Internet-based marketing firm, YouGov.com, published an article by Michael Tesler entitled “Evangelical Opposition to Romney NOT Rooted in Anti-Mormonism.” Based in the UK, YouGov.com seems to be a serious organization. Nevertheless, it appears that this author falls prey to the classic problem of confusing correlation with causality, an issue I raised earlier.

Following the results in the South and a couple of days before seeing the YouGov piece, I wrote a post that included this paragraph:

While mobs no longer rage in the South, feelings of ill will are obliquely mentioned in the press (“Romney fails to attract the ‘very conservative’ in South Carolina”). People looking at that will often exclaim that this does not mean that these people oppose Mitt on religious grounds, punctuating their objections that the most religious people happen to also be the most conservative. Indeed, as any statistics professor will explain early in any course, correlation does not indicate causality. The evidence that the correlation means something more in this case, however, seems clearer than many will accept.

Just as one cannot use correlation to prove causality, however, one cannot use correlation to prove the opposite case, which would involve trying use correlation to prove that people do not reject Mitt Romney because of his religion. It appears that Tesler’s approach in his YouGov article falls into this same category of problem. In reporting results from a study he conducted to support that notion, he cites three different sources of media speculation to the contrary and then continues:

Media speculation abounds that Mitt Romney’s poor performance among Evangelical voters in the 2012 Primaries is rooted in anti-Mormonism—a sentiment that will surely intensify if the former governor loses this week in Alabama and Mississippi. My analysis of seven surveys conducted by YouGov from late January to early March 2012 (pooled n=7,000, with 1,791 likely Republican primary voters), however, suggests that Romney’s religion is not the main reason why he has not won over these voters.

Setting statistical measures aside, let’s take a look at some specifics that I feel provide a different picture. First, let’s consider what members of various Evangelical groups and congregations have said and are saying. While some of these developments will no doubt have minimal impact, taken as a group they counter the assertion by Mr. Tesler and others that Mitt’s religion is a problem for his electoral chances. Rather than taking the time to discuss each instance in detail, I will mainly provide a list of statements with links to the various sources.

2008 Election Cycle

2012 Election Cycle

The article by Pastor Andrew begins:

The GOP election is coming down to ‘God and Santorum VS. Satan and Romney’,” says pastor Steven Andrew, president of USA Christian Ministries and author of “Making Strong Christian Nation”. “If you want God’s blessings for Americans, then vote for Christian Rick Santorum, not Mormon Mitt Romney,” he adds.

As it turns out, this particular pastor’s Web sites, USA News First and USA Christian Ministries, are filled with articles of the sort cited above.

Pastor O’Neal Dozier serves as Santorum’s “honorary chairman) in Florida and adds the dimension of race into the discussion. Hugh Hewitt brought up Dozier’s call to Romney in an interview with Rick Santorum, asking the senator, “Would you speak out against people using that kind of rhetoric in the presidential campaign?” Santorum responded:

Absolutely. I mean, this is inappropriate. I mean, there is no religious test, nor should there be. It’s very clear in the Constitution what the role is of religion in public life. There should be no religious test. People should be able to practice their faith, whatever that faith is, and people should make judgments about them based on what their public policy pronouncements are, and who they are, and what they believe in, and what their record is.

After citing that interview, John Schroeder, a blogger at Article VI Blog writes that he was unconvinced by Santorum’s sincerity. Schroeder, who is from Mississippi and calls himself “moderate ‘evangelical’ Christian “), summarized the results of that interview:

I am not asking if Santorum is a bigot – I am asking if he can effectively defend religious liberty.  It seems quite clear to me that he cannot.  Whether through intent or simple lack of control of his own organization he lends the prestige of his campaign to people that are clearly bigots.

The potential impact of the apparent bigotry is not only seen in the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi and elsewhere, one can guess that it might be having an effect in crucial swing states. While Rasmussen shows Mitt leading Santorum nationally (37% to 28%), he shows Mitt losing and Santorum winning against Obama in the “Core Four States (FL, NC, OH, VA).” This development is interesting, perhaps even alarming to the Romney Campaign, given that Mitt has already won primaries in three of those four states.

I end with the assertion that despite the fact that bigotry does seem to be apparent in this election cycle, the biggest problem lies not with those individuals who hold prejudiced views that intermingle politics and religion. Chances are they are not even aware of the problem, frequently the situation with prejudice.

Rather, the most serious problem in the current election cycle is that Mitt’s two chief opponents seem to want to do pretty much everything they can to seek political gain from the existence of the prejudice. If true, this would be without a doubt one of the most cynical political maneuvers since George Wallace used states’ rights in the pursuit of his political ambitions. His efforts even had the lasting and detrimental effect of turning the very important and valid notion of states’ rights into what became a euphemism for the politics of race.

This entry was posted in Election 2012, Mitt, the Mormon by Mike. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mike

Michael Bush first met Mitt in 1966 when they reported for a one-week training session in Salt Lake City before heading to France on the 4th of July to serve as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 2 1/2 years. They also served at the same time in Bordeaux for several months in 1968, where they worked together quite often. Mike is on the faculty of Brigham Young University and grew up in Alabama. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Political Science. He also has an MBA from the University of Missouri and a PhD from The Ohio State University in Foreign Language Education with an emphasis in Computer Science. He is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who spent most of his career at the US Air Force Academy teaching French and doing research in the area of computer-assisted language learning. He and his wife Annie have four children and 18 grandchildren. It goes without saying that the things written on this site reflect his views and opinions and are in no way intended to reflect those of Brigham Young University or its sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

6 thoughts on “Bigotry or No Bigotry? That is the question!

  1. Because of Romney’s wealth being masked by a “Blind Trust”, the Republican establishment has a blind trust with Romney. They blindly trust he’s their savior. And to those religious voters who blindly support the Mormon candidate, they really have a blind trust in him. When a presidential candidate of the LDS faith, who is known to have sworn an oath of loyalty and allegiance, consecrating all that he has (his time, talent and resources) to the Mormon church – and has done so as a covenant made with God in the holiest of places, the temple – shouldn’t this person’s worldview merit further scrutiny?

    Even with his following quote, “Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin”, he could, and would, as a devout Mormon, attends to his duties in their temples and, while in there, he could be associating with members of his church leadership – away from any other public or media witnesses – and easily be given political advice. He’d still be consistent with his qoute for the simple reason the church leadership won’t be “exerting” any influence on him because he’ll be willingly accepting and implementing their advice of his own free will and accord – without any exertion from the LDS leadership. And there would be no other witnesses outside the Mormon circle to know what was said between them.

    This is very plausible possibility. Yet, no non-Mormon in the electorate seems too interested. Oh yes, there is plenty of religious talk being thrown around because of Santorum, but no one in the media seems to be asking the right questions about Romney’s Mormonism.

    It appears Romney relies on the “Blind Trust” to mask his ever increasing privileged wealth, as well as to mask his very-different-JFK religion issue.

    What I’m pointing out isn’t about bigotry or intolerance, but about serious suspicions and fears that Romney hasn’t adequately addressed. I rather admire the religion’s can-do attitude, but that doesn’t take care of the concerns I and many others have about his religion’s influence.

  2. Thank you for pointing out what should be obvious. After all, most voters and pundits readily agree that Romney would already be our nominee “if only he were an evangelical.” Yes, Gingrich and Santorum are still in the race because of anti-Mormon hatred and prejudice. Obviously most people don’t want them as leaders; if they did then certainly Gingrich and Santorum would both be serving in some type of political office right now. I am not whining about the bigotry, I am simply stating what has been obvious to many. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that religious preference is what is preventing Romney from doing even better than he already is, but he is still doing well enough to win. Fortunately the majority of voters are not bigots.

  3. It is frustrating to me that So Many individuals worship God in churches that tear down other peoples religion based on opinion, bias, fear, and Prejudice.
    In a Mormon Church they teach many sound principles of clear sensible truth and a firm belief that God lives and loves everyone. I have never heard any attacks of other faiths from its leaders they encourage mutual respect and tolerance of all people and the good that is in them. The only condemnation I have ever heard is for SIN and the negative and painful consequences of it, the focus is on the Living Resurected Christ who is mindful of everyone and loves us all. Jesus Christ said in the Holy Bible “By this shall all men know if ye are my disciples if ye have Love one to another.”

  4. In response to your article above, I can only repeat my reply (below) to your prior column following the southern primaries. With your indulgence, I sincerely ask that you include it once more as a reply to your scholarly column on “bigotry.” It is my hope that your perspectives, as well as responses like mine and others, will inspire even one more person to say, “Enough. I will no longer tolerate this religious bigotry. It has no place in the soul of this country I love.” Thank you.

    Your column conveys the same sense of deep sadness I felt after the southern primaries. The results weren’t about geography or politics or party – they were about religious bigotry. I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, I’ve lived it. One need only drive through the Deep South and survey the reader boards in front of many of the churches: “Today’s Sermon: The Cult of Mormonism,” etc. Or visit the hardcore Evangelical and Southern Baptist websites and blogs: “A Vote for Romney Is A Vote for Satan,” etc. You get the picture. Fifty years ago, it was the Catholics. Today, it’s the Mormons. And, of course, the Jews have always been granted a prime seat in the pew of southern bigotry. Anti-Mormonism is a regular part of southern Sunday School curriculum– from childhood, these congregations are fully indoctrinated. Again, I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it on many occasions. Over recent years, I’ve come to sort of like Mike Huckabee, but I always thought it suspicious that, in the 2008 campaign, when the media asked to see the text of some of his Baptist minister sermons, they had all apparently been “accidentally” lost in a fire.

    It’s true that Southern racial bigotry is fading with each new generation but it is clearly not gone and has, fortunately, at least become publicly unacceptable. But religious bigotry is alive and well, particularly in the South. In fact, in pockets throughout the entire country, you will find well-developed anti-Mormonism industries – brochures, movies, books, conferences – produced, sold and shipped all over by people paid a salary to save America from that “evil cult of Joe Smith’s.” And even a superficial investigation demonstrates the following: the anti-Mormon industry is predominantly promulgated and funded by the Far Right Evangelical community – with a lot of help from the Baptists. It seems for too many that being “born again” has brought a rebirth of bigotry, this time not based on race, but on religion. And Heaven help the Muslim whose company sends him to take over the MIssissippi office…

    What is wrong with the South? How is it that the poison of prejudice so often emerges from such a beautiful part of this country? Has it never recovered from losing the war? Is it, even yet, seeking retribution? An entire culture still looking for a scapegoat? I recall a scene from the 1988 movie “MIssissippi Burning” where the FBI agent raised in the South (Gene Hackman) tells the FBI agent from the North (William Defoe) that his own father had once burned down a Black worker’s farm for no reason except that it was beginning to thrive. The father explained: “If I can’t be better than a N—–, than what am I?” (paraphrased) It seems that the bitter southern prejudice towards Mormons (and others) found most strongly in the South is just more of the same: a desperate need to feel power or superiority over someone else. And as I write these words, I still can’t begin to understand bigotry of such depth and magnitude, above all, in the context of religion.

    The great expose that has not yet been written is the story of American anti-Mormonism – particularly, Southern – sadly from so many who profess to be Christian. To denigrate a major faith so clearly based on Christian values is an embarrassment to me – as a Southerner, as an Evangelical, and as an American. This story, which is the ugly underbelly of this Presidential campaign, needs to be thoroughly investigated and told – it will be the next Pulitzer Prize winner.

    I’m going to vote for MItt Romney. He’s seriously smart, experienced, conservative, honorable, and, yes, Christian enough for me. (If he says he believes in Christ, who but God can say otherwise?) And he’ll be a great President. But I am also struck by his profound courage – he is blazing a trail to religious tolerance in this country that is long overdue. I believe in America and I’m proud of her – but I’m also ashamed of some of its chapters – the American Indians and the Blacks, to name just two. If getting Romney elected helps close another of our shameful chapters – the persecution of the Mormons – I consider it a duty and an honor to be a part of this long-overdue progress as a country and a people. And if the South – those who, even now, cannot embrace what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” – cost this country the leadership of a man like Mitt Romney, it will not be a literal assassination of a President, but the consequences to this nation will be the same

  5. Pingback: Bookmarks 03/18/2012 « Conservative First

  6. Pingback: Mitt’s Opponents Use Bigotry for Political Benefit | Mitt: The Man

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