I had hoped to leave the issue of bigotry aside a while and enjoy the results of what could be a good day for Mitt in the Illinois primary (PPP has him up by 15% “on his way to a Florida style romp” and ARG by 14% and he “leads with 41% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party“). Then the issue blasted its way back into my consciousness yesterday when I came across an article on the Huffington Post Web site, “Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum, Tells Non-Christians And Liberals To Get Out“.
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…
So despite the best efforts of media to ignore the bigotry question on the one hand and of polling organizations to cover it up on the other (“Evangelical Opposition to Romney NOT Rooted in Anti-Mormonism.”), bigotry is with us, with little sign of abating. No doubt, we will see evidence once again in this weeks primaries. As I have written, however, the negative feelings I am experiencing are not directed at people who know no better. To see Mitt’s opponents seek to gain from the situation, however, is upsetting in the extreme.
In that vein, have a look at the videos referenced in the Huffington Post piece and decide for yourself the motivation behind Senator Santorum’s actions. In this first one, the pastor says:
Listen to me, If you don’t love America, If you don’t like the way we do things I have one thing to say – GET OUT. We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God’s son Jesus Christ.
At the end Senator Santorum stands and applauds along with everyone else before being introduced by the pastor.
The story does not end there. ABC News carried a story yesterd by Kasie Hunt of the Associated Press in which Terry was quoted making comments that show his disdain for Mitt’s religion. This next video provides more of Santorum’s interactions with Reverend Terry in Louisiana:
The videos are of course promoted by RightWingWatch.org, which is associated with the group People for the American Way, both of which I understand receive or have received major financial support from George Soros. Despite the source, however, it seems that we can all agree that the message conveyed by Senator Santorum’s actions in Louisiana is not one that will unite the country.