How preoccupied are political news reporters with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
This preoccupied: During Saturday night's coverage of the Nevada caucus voting, CNN's John King dropped the whole Romney thing and instead referred to the GOP frontrunner as "Governor Mormon."
In explaining how overwhelmingly Nevada Latter-day Saints voted for Romney, King mistakenly pointed out: "Obviously, Governor Mormon is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
"He's a Mormon, and he won big among Mormons," King said. "He won nine out of every 10 votes among Mormons."
If you look at the video you see that King is looking at a graphic that has a picture of Romney with the word "Mormon" over the top, so it's easy to understand how the error could be made, especially under the pressure of live television election coverage. Still, with all of the attention being paid by journalists around the country to Romney's religion, it may be easier to just start calling him Gov. Mormon from now on.
Or at least until we have to start calling him President Mormon.
Of course, that assumes he can get past former Speaker Catholic, Congressman Baptist, former Sen. Catholic and, eventually, President United Church of Christ.
As much as Romney is associated with his religion, however, there are still those who are calling for him to speak more openly about it. Writing in The New Republic, Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and professor of American Religious History at Columbia University, claims that Romney "continues to obfuscate on matters of faith."
"What ought to interest us about Romney's faith are not the vagaries of Mormon theology," Balmer writes, "but how he understands that theology, how his faith informs the way he lives, his sense of responsibility toward others and how that might affect the way he governs."
For example, Balmer notes, Latter-day Saints "teach that the United States Constitution is divinely inspired. It's fair to ask Romney how that affects his understanding of the Constitution."
He also notes that "although Mormons are hardly the only group that claims to be the 'true' religion, how does that teaching inflect Romney's notions about pluralism and toleration?"
"But the more pertinent question applies to all presidential candidates who make declarations of faith: How does religion shape your policies?" writes Balmer, who is the author of "God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush."
Unfortunately, Balmer contends, Romney has remained "studiously tight-lipped" about his membership in the LDS Church.
"Until he opens up," he concludes, "he won't be able to shirk the religion issue."
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