Glenn Beck

Let's imagine that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared on CNN and the subject of his religion came up. And the host said the following:

"No offense, and I know Mormons. I like Mormons. I've been to Mormon churches. I really don't believe that Mormonism is a religion of evil.

"I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel. And I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."

If that happened, it would be like a bomb hit the state of Utah. People would be up in arms. There would be an outcry against CNN, including calls not only for apologies, but for the host to be fired.

And rightfully so.

Despite that preamble (which sounds a whole lot like the stereotypical bigot who proclaims, "Some of my best friends are Jewish"), if something like this were to happen, it would be utterly irresponsible religious bigotry and intolerance. No elected official should ever have to put up with something like this. No American should ever have to put up with something like this.

And yet, here's what happened last month on CNN Headline News:

Host Glenn Beck welcomed Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota who is the first Muslim elected to Congress.

"May we have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards face up on the table?" Beck said.

"Go there," Ellison replied.

"No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I've been to mosques," Beck said. "I really don't believe that Islam is a religion of evil. I, you know, I think it's being hijacked, quite frankly.

"With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, 'Let's cut and run.' And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'

"And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel. And I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."

Despite his attempts to couch it, Beck's outrageous question reflected utterly irresponsible religious bigotry and intolerance. No elected official should ever have to put up with something like that. No American should ever have to put up with something like that.

And there are certain parallels for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who, historically, were also seen as un-American — even anti-American — and whose loyalty to the United States was called into question.

For that matter, polls have shown a percentage of Americans today hold onto their religious bigotry and would refuse to vote for Romney — should he run for president — because of his membership in the LDS Church.

Just a couple of weeks ago — after Ellison appeared on his TV show — Beck brought his stage show to Salt Lake City and concluded with a segment in which he talked about his conversion to the LDS Church. Apparently the irony of Beck joining a church that had experienced the same sort of bigotry he demonstrated on his CNN show went unnoticed.

I hope it was because nobody was paying attention to what he had said back in November. Religious bigotry is religious bigotry, no matter how you try to qualify it.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com