Pignanelli; "A person extremely intolerant of creeds, beliefs, etc., other than his/her own." Such is the standard dictionary definition of a bigot. Unfortunately, this describes too many Americans, because of their personal view toward Mormons.

Polls indicate that approximately 20 percent of Americans will never vote for a Mormon candidate for president. More troubling, a recent survey (reported in this newspaper a week ago) revealed 40 percent of college faculty across the country possess an unfavorable view of Mormons. Web sites and propaganda generated by many mainstream Protestant denominations display even worse hostility. This emotion was highlighted by the Rev. Al Sharpton's nonsensical utterance that the LDS do not "really believe in God."

Reminder: A person who judges another's character on the basis of religion, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation IS A BIGOT! It is outrageous this conduct still exists in 21st-century America. How can the intellectual elite of our universities prejudge persons they never met on the basis of religion, and admit to it? (No doubt, if the word "Jew" or "black" was substituted for Mormon, these enlightened individuals would offer more affectionate responses.) Thousands of Americans casually proclaim they will not support Mitt Romney for president because he is a Mormon. Our Founding Fathers were repulsed by similar discrimination and placed in the United States Constitution a prohibition against a religious test in selecting officials.

Granted, Mormons hold some views quirky to most Americans. But peel back the covers of any mainstream religion and you will find strange beliefs and a troubled history. For over 150 years, the LDS faith produced adherents committed to the advancement of our society and the welfare of fellow human beings. Mormons have not committed a huge crime that excuses prejudice.

When I confront my LDS friends (loudly, with arms waving) about responding to these horrible insults, the usual reaction is a shrug of the shoulders and a mumble "what can one do about it?" But something has to be done. Insidious discrimination, whether against Mormons or others, is a disease that permeates all the fabric of our country. Both Mormons and non-Mormons, in a very public manner, must paint this intolerance for what it is: bigotry. This is not the time for passive-aggressive behavior. Indeed, these narrow-minded fools will learn that there are serious ramifications for their stupidity, if we aggressively counter religious discrimination. We may not be able to convince the bigots overnight, but we can at least shame them out of releasing their poisonous thoughts.

Webb: As he's a Utahn not of the LDS faith, it's nice of Frank to come to the defense of Mormons. Clearly, these are interesting times for the LDS Church. The presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney has focused intense worldwide attention on Romney and, by extension, his church. Rightly or wrongly, for better or for worse, Romney and the church are inextricably bound together in the eyes of many people. More Romney/Mormon stories have been published in the national and international news media than can be counted.

The scrutiny is especially intense because Romney is doing remarkably well in the campaign. Many pundits expected him to fade, but he is running as good a race as any of the front-runners. Instead of falling behind, he seems to be picking up momentum in the states and the activities that really count this early in the contest.

Being a focal point in the race to become the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth obviously isn't for the faint-of-heart. It's a little like the Utah Jazz making the playoffs. It's a whole new level of competition. The intensity picks up dramatically. Each play is crucial. Every move is scrutinized by millions of people worldwide. Mistakes are magnified.

And, clearly, the play gets rougher. There are hard body checks, a lot of pushing and shoving and, yes, some elbows and cheap shots. But as rough and aggressive as the play is, it's a lot better to be out on the court competing than be home fishing.

In the long run, both the Jazz and Romney (and the LDS Church) will be much better off for having spent some time in the spotlight, playing at this level, being knocked around a little, working through the tough times.

And while I agree with Frank that bigots need to be confronted, perhaps just the right attitude in basketball games or presidential campaigns (or life) has been displayed by Derek Fisher: Play hardnosed ball — with focus and intensity — but, remember, this is the big-time. These are the playoffs. Playing at this level means you're going to take some hits and cheap shots. If you retaliate, lose your temper or hold grudges you lose the mind-game.

And when the game is over, you might even go up to your antagonist (the one who just flattened you with an elbow to the head) and give him a hug.


Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. He now is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. A former candidate for Salt Lake mayor, Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.