New bigotry: anti-Mormonism

Not all Democrats hate Mormons. Just half of them.

That’s a conclusion a poll invites Americans to contemplate.

The rise of Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination prompted the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute to ask Americans this summer whether they’d be comfortable with a Mormon president.

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said yes. Sixty-four percent of independents said yes. Only 49 percent of Democrats said yes.

Slow down a moment and think about that. Half of Democrats wouldn’t be comfortable with a Mormon president?

Looks like the Democratic Party, whose members are constantly seeking splinters in the eyes of “bigots” to use as a political weapon, needs to see a doctor immediately about the log sticking out of its collective head.

Some will try to downplay the poll by suggesting the results have more to do with current politics than with bias against Mormons.

Because Romney has a good chance to challenge President Barack Obama next year, a “Mormon president” question will skew against Democrats. Of course, to get there you have to admit a good number of Democrats can’t muster the intellectual honesty to answer a simple question. So, please, let’s give Democrats the benefit of the doubt on that front.

It’s far more logical to assume that there is something in the DNA of Democrat thinking that leads to such a big gap on the Mormon question.

Might Democrats have a faith problem? Well, it’s certainly true in my anecdotal experience that a good chunk of the liberal community looks down at candidates who talk about their faith in any authentic way.

For example, candidates for elected office who dare say they pray before running for office or making big decisions had better look out. Ridicule from liberal pundits, who will call you “crazy,” will surely follow.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, offers up this expanded answer.

“Among Republicans, there are some evangelicals who have a theological problem with a Mormon being president; they do not regard Mormons as Christians, and that belief is controlling. But theology means relatively little to carping Democrats — most believe in nothing. Ergo, something else is at work.”

That something else is the ongoing tension between those of faith and secularists. Polls show that secularists are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Secularists also remain by and large wary of all religions.

“Now put it all together,” says Donohue, and “Catholics, Mormons and evangelicals are joined at the hip in the culture war in their support for the rights of the unborn and the integrity of marriage and the family, traditionally defined. Secular Democrats hate both.

“In other words, intolerance marks liberal Democrats more than any other segment of the population, accounting for their rejection of a Mormon as president.”

Now, you can accept Donohue’s thinking or not. But the Quinnipiac poll isn’t the only survey to uncover this bigotry gap. A Pew poll, also conducted this summer, found 31 percent of Democrats, compared with only 23 percent of Republicans, wouldn’t support a candidate if he were Mormon. In a Poll Position survey last month, 37 percent of Democrats said they’d never vote for a Mormon for president.

Never? Never. That’s a startling stat made more alarming by the fact that it’s a full 11 points higher than the response of Republicans.

Perhaps the most important lesson in all this is that bigotry comes in all forms. While liberals have made a cottage industry out of making people believe they know best when it comes to racial bigotry, they’ve got a long way to go in understanding the new, far more prevalent bigotry of today.

Anti-Mormonism is real. All polls show it is predominantly a liberal problem, which, it is fair to conclude, underlines a broader and deeper bias against people of faith in American politics.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, writes a weekly column for Stephens Media.

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