SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon bishop in Los Angeles is under fire for his assertion that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is unworthy to enter the faith’s temples because of his support for Democratic Party positions.
Mark Peredes’ blog, titled “Good Riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate Leader,” has drawn criticism from the church and Mormon Democrats.
Peredes called Reid an “embarrassment” and expressed his belief that Democrats’ support of same-sex marriage, abortion rights and gambling runs contrary to church positions.
“Of all of yesterday’s election results, the one that made me dance a jig was the ousting of Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader,” he wrote. “The Senate’s most powerful perch will no longer be occupied by a man who does not take his religion seriously.
“I have no doubt that Harry Reid is a wonderful man who loves his wife and kids, attends church, and is kind to animals. However, he is not a man of serious religious faith,” he added.
Church spokesman Dale Jones issued a statement criticizing the blog. The essay was published Wednesday in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are, of course, entitled to express their own political opinions,” he said. “However, publishing such views while using a title of a church officer, even if only as a leader of a local congregation as in this case, is entirely inappropriate.”
Although the vast majority of U.S. Mormons are Republicans, the church trumpets its political neutrality and notes Mormon politicians need not support church stances, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Paredes did not respond to a request for comment Saturday. He noted in a disclaimer that he was merely expressing his personal opinion, but he identified himself in the blog as a bishop.
Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman on Saturday released a letter from a Mormon Democrat in Las Vegas to Paredes. “Our comment to this is to show you one of many comments Sen. Reid has received from his friends,” Orthman said.
The letter was written by Charles Zobell, a 56-year member of the church, director of digital media at KSNV-TV Channel 3 in Las Vegas, and a former longtime managing editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Both he and his wife are lifelong Democrats.
“Your very public comments on Sen. Harry Reid, a faithful member of the Church, were outrageous and unbecoming a priesthood holder in your position of influence. In short, they were un-Christian … You should apologize to (him) and to every LDS Democrat you have so viciously disparaged,” Zobell wrote.
“I am so tired of self-righteous members of my own Church telling me I cannot be a Democrat and a good Mormon … I cannot see how anyone can read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament and not have more compassion and charity for others. Those have been hallmarks of the Democratic Party since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and earlier,” he added.
Paredes, who is bishop of the church’s Wilshire Ward in Los Angeles, explained in his blog that Mormons are asked certain questions before they can enter sacred church temples, including whether they support groups whose beliefs or practices are contrary to those of the faith.
“I have no problem with an average Mormon in the pew who supports the Democratic Party because one of its issues or positions appeals to him,” Paredes wrote. “However, occupying a national Democratic leadership position is an entirely different matter.”
But Richard Davis, a political science professor at Brigham Young University and a Democrat, told The Tribune that local church leaders are not at liberty to deny someone a “temple recommend” based on their political affiliation.
Reid will lose his position as Senate majority leader in January after Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s election. No other Mormon has held a higher elective national office.