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Editor's Letter: Mocking the Mormons

In recent polls, 22 percent of Americans said flat-out they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon—more than double the number who admit prejudice against blacks, Jews, or women.

I finally got to see The Book of Mormon last weekend, and as Variety might say, it was “uproarious fun”—“the theatrical event of the year.” My wife and I were swept up in the audience’s convulsive laughter, as a chorus line of earnest Mormon missionaries belted out songs about their sexual repression and strange theological beliefs. (Heaven, it seems, is actually on a planet named Kolob.) But amid the hilarity, I felt a small stirring of unease. Would this audience of sophisticates (I saw Keith Olbermann in the second row) be laughing so hard and so easily if the play were mocking Orthodox Jews, or Rastafarians, or Hindus? I suspect not.

As evangelical minister Robert Jeffress demonstrated last week (Best columns: The U.S.), disdain for Mormons remains one of our society’s acceptable prejudices. In recent polls, 22 percent of Americans said flat-out they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon—more than double the number who admit prejudice against blacks, Jews, or women. Democrats were even more hostile to Mormons than Republicans, with 31 percent saying they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate of that religion. The justifications for this bigotry vary: Evangelicals think Mormons are a blasphemous “cult,” while liberals resent the church’s activist opposition to gay marriage. But Mitt Romney is not running for president as a Mormon, any more than John Kennedy ran as a Catholic, or George H.W. Bush as an Episcopalian. He doesn’t flaunt or discuss his private religious views, which is as it should be. Unlike, say, Iran, our Constitution specifically prohibits “religious tests” for office. It’s a sound idea, and maybe we ought to give it a try.    

William Falk

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