Nel's New Day

July 15, 2012

Fundamentalists Woo Mormon Romney

While Mitt Romney battles the issue of what year he left Bain, risking either a felony charge or the discovery that he ran a company that disposed of aborted fetuses and outsourced jobs to China, he is secretly trying to woo the fundamentalist religious leaders. David Brody reported on the Christian Broadcasting Network that Romney’s campaign is working behind the scenes to schedule weekly meetings, personal phone calls, faith-based events, and serious dialog about a gathering this fall with national evangelical leaders. Thus far he has talked with Rick Warren and tried to meet with Dr. James Dobson.

Warren, as you may remember, is the California pastor who was in staunch opposition to marriage equality.  According to Warren, “The Hebrew-Christian God is characterized by love. The Islamic god is characterized by war and vengeance.” Warren has also stated that Mormons are not Christians because they don’t believe in the Trinity–one God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He also maintained that any group that baptizes a person after they have died is a cult; ergo, Mormonism is a cult.

Peter Flaherty, a senior advisor for the Romney campaign, has met with Jim Daly, Tim Goeglin, and Tom Minnery from Focus on the Family; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; President Ralph Reed with the Faith and Freedom Coalition; Dr. Richard Land with The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rev. Sammy Rodriguez with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Gary Bauer with American Values; Bob Reccord with the Council for National Policy; and Mark Rodgers, a former senior advisor to Rick Santorum. In late June, 70 conservative Christian leaders met to talk about how to get the conservative Christian base energized.

A recently released book The Teavangelicals details how Romney has been courting evangelical leaders for years, for example holding a private meeting at his home in 2006 with more than a dozen evangelical leaders including Franklin Graham, the late Jerry Falwell, Richard Land, Jay Sekulow, Frank Wright, and Gary Bauer. After the meeting, Romney sent each of those who attended a chair with a brass plate inscribed with the words, “There will always be a seat for you at our table.” He held another meeting in 2009 although the book doesn’t mention any chairs.

Evangelical leaders have informed Romney that acceptable vice-presidential candidates would be Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio. Also crucial to these fundamentalists in order to support Romney is more pro-family language as part of Romney’s stump speech and a defense of Judeo-Christian principles. They also want an explanation of the nation’s fiscal crisis in moral terms. (The article didn’t explain what this is.)

Romney’s concentration on coaxing votes out of the fundamentalists comes at a time when confidence in religious institutions has hit an all-time low. Only 44 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll expressed a “great deal” of confidence in organized religion compared with 52 percent a little over two years ago.

Meanwhile the Mormon church got all riled at last week’s issue of Businessweek that describes the vast financial holdings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a $2 billion mall in Salt Lake City and a $1 billion ranch in Florida. The cover illustration satirizes John the Baptist bestowing the priesthood on Joseph Smith, the Mormon’s founding prophet. On the cover, John the Baptist tells Smith, “and thou shalt build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax …” Smith answers, “Hallelujah.” Bloomberg spokeswoman Rachel Nagler said that the cover image comes from an 1898 lithograph “recording a pivotal moment in the birth of Mormonism.”

The article itself is far more serious than the cover, delineating the church’s holdings: a large number of media companies, a hospitality business, an insurance firm with assets of $3 billion, an agricultural company with 1 million acres in the U.S., and an ample real estate portfolio as well as an investment fund and trust company. The LDS church is probably worth about $40 billion and takes in $8 billion each year in tithes although no one knows for sure because they are not required to reveal any of their financial information. This from a group that comprises 1.4 percent of the U.S. population, about 45 million people.

The church donates less than one percent of its annual income to charity, compared to other churches which donate almost 30 percent. “Today, the Church’s business assets support the Church’s mission and principles by serving as a rainy day fund,” the church said. They maintain that they give to their own members, but young people who have gone on missions assert that they had to pay their own way, even buying the Bibles they give away as part of their two-year missionary activities in the world.

The LDS Church is able to make even more money because it is exempt from paying taxes on the real estate properties it leases out, even commercial entities, and doesn’t pay taxes on donated funds and holdings. Mitt Romney and others at Bain Capital have given the Mormon Church millions’ worth of stock holdings obtained through Bain deals. Between 1997 and 2009, these included $2 million in Burger King and $1 million in Domino’s Pizza shares, shares which the church can then sell without paying capital-gains taxes.

The fixation of the Mormon church to make money is in keeping with other religious groups in the country, but it differs the Mormon’s belief that that any money-making project is spiritual. Historian D. Michael Quinn said, “Traditional Christianity and Judaism make a clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, while Mormon theology specifically denies that there is such a distinction. In the Mormon [leadership’s] worldview, it’s as spiritual to give alms to the poor, as the old phrase goes in the Biblical sense, as it is to make a million dollars.”

The Mormon beliefs raise some questions about Romney as a political leader. According to his acceptance in the Mormon temple, he has promised to focus all his talents to the advancement of the Mormon church and hold the church’s prophet to be the highest authority on Earth. Joseph Smith had a supposed vision that one day a Mormon would become President of the United States, so that the Mormon Church can take over the U.S. government. Smith’s prophecy was revenge for perceived wrongs done to Joseph Smith by the government.

During Romney’s entire campaign, people have questioned the lies that the “etch a sketch” nominee have told. Another philosophy of Mormons is that telling lies is acceptable as long as these statements are not to another Mormon.

Therefore, believing that he has no compunction against lying, Romney works to become the president of the United States so that his religion can control the government. Would fundamentalists prefer subservience to the Mormon church over having President Obama continue for another four years?

If you didn’t know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, you’re in good company. According to a recent poll, only 43 percent of the people in the United States are aware of his religion. The people who don’t know may be the same people who are convinced–in error–that President Obama is a Muslim.

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