How it matters if candidate is LDS

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 9:18 a.m. MST

With less than two months remaining until Iowa holds presidential caucuses Jan. 3, a Washington Post columnist has made strong proclamations about the LDS affiliations of Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr.

In an op-ed piece published Sunday, E.J. Dionne Jr. argued that under no circumstances should voters be prejudiced against Romney and Huntsman for their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"A few things ought to be clear, and let's start with this: the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman should not be an issue in this campaign. Period. … All Americans ought to empathize with religious minorities because each of us is part of one. If Mormonism can be held against Romney and Huntsman, then everyone else's tradition — and, for nonbelievers, their lack of religious affiliation — can be held against them, too."

Dionne affirmed the Constitution's prohibition of religious tests for office, but he suggested instead that a test should be "to what extent would a candidate's religious views affect what he or she might do in office?"

"It's also not as simple as it sounds," he wrote. "For if religious people fairly claim that faith has a legitimate place in public life, they must accept that the public (including journalists) is fully justified in probing how that faith might influence what they would do with political power. … Voters especially have a right to know how a candidate's philosophical leanings shape his or her attitudes toward the religious freedom of unbelievers as well as believers."

For quite some time religion has been part of in the ongoing dialogue about the GOP presidential derby. In that vein, Deseret News religion specialist Joe Walker recently compiled articles about how the mix of politics and religion is here to stay, and about an 11-person debate on the Christianity of presidential politics.

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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