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Angle’s former pastor and the ‘cult’

For months Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle has been knocked for her firebrand rhetoric on subjects ranging from Social Security to healthcare reform. Her strong conservative stands have thrilled her followers, but have been used by the campaign team of U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to portray her as an uncaring extremist.

Now Angle faces what would appear to be an even more difficult task: dealing with the politically toxic comments of her longtime pastor, John Reed of Sonrise Church of Reno. In a lengthy, thoughtful article in the Reno News & Review by veteran Nevada journalist Dennis Myers, Reed called Reid’s Mormon faith, “a cult. The Christian community – all the Christians, theologians and scholars, all recognize that, that Mormonism is a cult. I have books in my library on cults, and it lists Mormonism right there with all these bizarre cults.” He accused Reid of owing his “allegiance” to Salt Lake City and alleged the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religion with 14 million members worldwide, keeps a “hit squad” that kills “Mormons that go against them.”

Hit squads aside, this was no hit piece. Myers is a respected reporter and columnist. On Monday he said, “It was it seemed like every time he spoke he said something volatile. And I had a tape recorder right in front of him running.”

As with so many issues that enter the mainstream press, Angle has chosen to minimize her contact with Nevada reporters, delegating to intermediaries the challenging task of explaining for her. In a statement, Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen distanced the candidate from Reed’s church, saying she hadn’t been a member in “six years.” Trouble is, Angle listed Sonrise as her home church in 2005 and 2008.

Agen said, “She strongly disavows any disparaging remarks against Mormons. As a Christian, Sharron shares the same values with other active Christians, including those of the Latter Day Saints community. Her former pastor in no way speaks for Sharron."

At least not to members of the LDS faith.

“The Mormon Church is rich, powerful, they do illegal things,” Pastor Reed told Myers. “They do secretive things. They’ve got all this money. They own American businesses. There’s weirdness going on there. Churches are not multi-millionaire organizations like the Mormon Church. You know, there’s some weirdness with that. But nobody questions it, nobody asks one question to Harry Reid and says, ‘Tell us about your faith. What does a Mormon believe?’ Ask him about the holy garments that he wears that protect him from evil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about getting his body parts anointed in oil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about when he goes to the temple and he gets baptized for dead people. Isn’t that kooky?”

The fallout from this is hard to measure, but it can’t help but make Angle’s insiders wince. After all, they’re relying on what’s expected to be a record turnout of staunch conservative voters – including plenty of conservative LDS voters – to defeat Reid in November.

True to form, following a campaign blurb Angle has chosen to ignore the issue even as it simmers and boils on websites and in elements of the Nevada and national press. She continues to rely on the public’s substantial discontent with the economy and the Democratic majority in Congress in a campaign in which she’s given only a handful of mainstream media interviews.

Then again, with polls showing she just might be pulling ahead of Reid despite it all, maybe she’s hit upon a winning strategy.

Heaven knows for sure.

The rest of us will find out in early November.

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