Whether Being a Mormon Matters in Running for President

Michael Gerson argues that religious Republican voters share many beliefs with Mitt Romney and that “evangelicals and other religious conservatives should not disqualify Romney from the outset.”

I agree that being a Mormon in itself should not disqualify Romney. The real question is not what religion he is but whether he, in contrast to many other conservatives, has the ability to separate his political views from public policy.

Religious views may contribute to a more universal morality in areas such as avoiding unnecessary killing, helping the poor, or protecting the environment. The problem comes when politicians hide behind their religion to justify what otherwise would not be justifiable. Verses from the Bible have been used to justify slavery and racism in the past, and are currently used to discriminate against gays. This is not limited to conservatives. Even John Edwards has cited his religious views to deny gays the basic right to choose who they marry.

Religious beliefs also are used to deny a woman control of her body with regards to abortion and to prevent federal spending for embryonic stem cell research. Republicans have attempted to set by legislation the moment when a fetus can feel pain regardless of the medical facts. Some pharmacists are refusing to provide Plan B based upon their religious beliefs. Religious views led to government intervention in personal end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case.

Although abstinence based education has been found to be ineffective, religious views often interfere with teaching of real sex education. Religious views lead some to attempt to limit teaching of evolution. Religious fundamentalists also attack established science on cosmology when they disagree about the origins of the universe, and object to geology when they disagree over the age of the earth. Many believe that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. The Bush administration has even backed religious fundamentalists who object to the geological age of the Grand Canyon, preferring the view that it was created in the biblical flood.

Religion has intruded far too often upon political decisions in recent years. I do not care about disagreements between Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, and other religious beliefs. What matters is whether his religious beliefs will be used to influence public policy in violation of traditional American principles of separation of church and state.

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