When do discussions of Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and how it influences his politics cross the line? “Our test to see if a similar story would be written about others’ religion is to substitute ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish,’ ” a spokesperson (Andrea Saul, who is Jewish) tells the Washington Post.
Several months ago, Yair Rosenberg presciently compared anti-Mormon sentiment now to historic American anti-Semitism. Where I think the analogy, between connecting Judaism to politics and Mormonism to politics, breaks down somewhat is that Mormon theology (as I very primitively understand it) has certain inherently political things to say beyond the sort of Leviticus-style moral prescriptions you can find in any organized religion: about the role of voluntarism in society; about American exceptionalism. To that extent, the content of Romney’s faith might be important for determining what kind of president he would be.
“This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion,” Romney said at one town hall. “I’ll talk about the practices of my faith.” That distinction is the one everyone should seek to maintain during this elections season—with the caveats that, first, Romney is a devout Mormon whose personal faith is more often than not going to mirror the doctrines of his religion, and, second, that with Mormonism particularly the practices of one’s faith can have direct political implications.