Claiming "the Mormon religion is prejudiced against blacks, Jews and native Americans," Rev. O'Neal Dozier, a Florida pastor, held a press conference Monday morning to call upon presidential candidate Mitt Romney to renounce what Dozier characterized as "his racist Mormon religion."
According to Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rev. Dozier said "the purpose of this request is to foster and maintain good race relations here in America," adding that "the Mormon religion is prejudiced against blacks, Jews and native Americans."
Officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn't offer a specific response to Rev. Dozier's claims, although Man referenced previous LDS statements on racism, which indicate that "people of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the church since its beginning" and "the church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the church."
Man reported "Dozier, who is black, said the purpose of his event, at which he was joined by three other Broward ministers, was to highlight the past racism of the Mormon Church.
"But it's impossible to separate Dozier from politics," Man continued. "He's a Republican Party committeeman and is the honorary Florida chairman for Rick Santorum, who is Romney's principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination."
Although Dozier said the Monday morning press conference was not a pro-Santorum event, he did take advantage of the opportunity to say that if Romney is the Republican Party's presidential nominee, "I could not find it in my heart to vote for him."
"The Mormon Church looks like a white man's country club with a few black people running around doing work around the club," Dozier said. "That's what it looks like. Is this the kind of racism we want guiding our country?"
"To me this is a human rights issue," said the Rev. Mathes Guice, one of the other ministers who attended the press conference. "For Romney to be elected president of the United States will be an insult to me as a black man in that his Holy Scripture denounced my blackness. He says that I am less than human."
The story also quoted Fred Bethel, a black Mormon, who said Dozier is mistaken. Bethel is an LDS bishop in Fort Lauderdale.
Among Dozier's claims is that the Book of Mormon says that God made "the black African people (to be) disgusting, detestable to white people [and] further degrades black, African people by saying they are uncultured, unattractive, unpleasant, lowlife, wild and unintelligent."
"This is not true," said MormonVoices, a website sponsored by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, in an unsigned commentary posted Sunday:
"The Book of Mormon's most direct teaching on the status of different races in God's sight is in 2 Nephi 26: 33: "(The Lord) inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
The MormonVoices article acknowledged that some Book of Mormon passages "do sound problematic to modern ears" and explained that it is important to remember "the Book of Mormon passages which reference a 'mark' or 'curse' are limited to a certain group of people in a certain time and place – namely, a group known as 'Lamanites' who were culturally and religiously antagonistic to the 'Nephites,' which included the Book of Mormon's narrators" and have nothing to do with those to whom Dozier refers as "black Africans."
Writing for Mediaite about the Dozier press conference, reporter Alex Alvarez said "this will likely prove a difficult battle for Rev. Dozier given that 1) past attempts at getting people to renounce their belief systems have, for the most part, been rather difficult, and 2) the pastor's own faith and interpretation of scripture have been marked by controversy and allegations of prejudice as well. Those who live in glass houses, as they say, should be careful of casting the first stone. Or something like that, no?"
Dozier was described in a Mother Jones story as a "Bush-connected Islamophobic pastor who says gays 'make God want to vomit.'" His bio on his church's website says he is a Vietnam vet who played in the NFL in 1974 and who worked on the campaigns of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush, including making radio ads for the president, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
A New York Magazine story about Dozier's press conference where he made his remarks said that Santorum touted Dozier's endorsement of Santorum yesterday.