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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Romney and religion

By Aaron Zundel

Mitt Romney can’t seem to stay out of the press these days.

Indeed, you know you’re a newsmaker when your name is in at least one national headline a day and your face appears on the cover of TIME magazine.

In many ways, Romney’s rising popularity should come as no surprise. He is, after all, a top contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, the former governor of Massachusetts and incredibly suave. C’mon, love him or hate him, you have to admit the guy just oozes gooey charm.

It’s funny, though, that for a guy who’s got so much political clout and history behind him, the only thing that people really seem to be focused on is his religion. From CNN to TIME, Matt Lauer to Al Sharpton, Romney can’t seem to shake the public’s fixation surrounding his beliefs. It seems that for every question he’s asked about policy there are two more concerned with either his “magic underwear” or whether or not he’s got another sixteen wives secretly stashed in a Manti compound. Wherever you go or whatever you read, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Romney is becoming less synonymous with presidential candidacy and more synonymous with Mormonism.

The legitimacy of his entire candidacy seems to be centered on matters of religion, not policy.

According to a 2006 NBC poll, 53 percent of respondents said that they would feel very uncomfortable voting for a Mormon presidential candidate. According to a similar poll done by The Los Angeles Times, 37 percent of respondents said that they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate under any circumstances.

Not that this sort of religious discrimination is surprising. Mormonism has never been taken seriously on a national level. Like the fat and obese, Mormonism is one of the few social groups that still lacks protection under the banner of modern political correctness because, honestly, who could possibly give up 10 percent of his or her income voluntarily and still be firing on all cylinders, right?

Of course, this sort of prejudiced, narrow mindset goes deeper than the underwear/polygamy issue.

Many Americans drill Romney on his religious beliefs because, like JFK during his presidential campaign in 1960, they bigotedly fear that a religious president would execute national policy based on direction from religious authorities, and not the American public.

This notion that the Romneys, a second-generation political family–long before Mitt took office in Massachusetts his father was the governor of Michigan–have been biding their time, slowly building political momentum so that they might, one day, clandestinely enter the Oval Office and immediately impose religious dominion over the entire free world is obviously absurd. In fact, it’s the stuff that bad Roger Corman movies are made of.

And yet it does not seem to stem the torrent of personal resistance and scrutiny Romney faces on a daily basis.

Romney himself has explained up and down that his first and only loyalty as a public official is to the American public and that any religious affiliations he might have are strictly personal.

However, those who oppose and grill Romney about his religion aren’t the only people misguided enough to believe that, if elected, he will attempt to transform America into the new Zion.

I personally know at least 10 people who, if given the opportunity, will cast their vote for Romney in 2008 based solely on the fact that they happen to sing from the same hymnal every Sunday, and it’s these people we ought to be afraid of.

It doesn’t matter if it’s for Mitt Romney, Al Sharpton or Osama bin Laden–anybody who casts their civic vote for religious purposes seems, at least to me, to be well on their way to strapping dynamite to their chest and detonating themselves in a fruit market full of small children.

Americans, on both sides of the Romney issue, who are dumb enough to believe that any sort of serious political candidate in this country would enact their religious beliefs over their political agendas, need to pull their heads out of their collective asses and put on their thinking caps. Bureaucrats at Romney’s level have been playing the game way too long to let something as personal as religion dictate their political ambitions.

At the end of the day, Romney’s religion shouldn’t factor into his candidacy any more than his preference for Coke or Pepsi. It’s just a non-issue. The man’s voting record and stances on policy are the only things we ought to be concerned about.

Perhaps if we can all understand that, we can get on to debating the real issues surrounding Mitt, like how he voted for stem cell research before he voted against it.

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