Journalists urged to allow Mormons to define themselves

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 5:07 p.m. MST

Still, he said, "it is incredibly important" for reporters to explore a candidate's religious beliefs. "Those beliefs say a lot about the candidate's foundational worldview," Cromartie said. "To not probe religious values would be avoiding a lot of important stuff that underlies that person's views and values … (Religion) says a lot about who we are as persons; you can't separate personal, emotional, philosophical, theological views from how they might be manifest in public policy."

Otterson agreed that there are two areas in which a candidate's religion could be considered relevant to a political discussion: how their religious beliefs might shape public or foreign policy, and how a candidate's faith has molded and shaped their character.

"But," he said, "I don't think it is legitimate to then question or challenge the legitimacy of their denomination . . . We are a pluralistic society, and you don't disparage or attack other faiths simply because they are other faiths, or suggest that it is appropriate to have religious denomination as a test for office."

Otterson stressed the LDS Church's ongoing policy of political neutrality.

"We will not endorse any political candidate, LDS or otherwise, and I don't want to say anything that would imply support for a candidate one way or the other," he said. "But I don't think the candidate's theology should be an issue. There are huge problems out there — millions of people without jobs. Are we really going to make this about theology?"

Cromartie agreed. "What's important is the kind of choices the candidate will make as president," he said. "How will the candidate approach the job philosophically? What kind of Supreme Court justices will the candidate appoint? If those kinds of things are aligned, that's what matters — not theology."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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