December 11, 2007

Mike Huckabee, Mormons, and Bigotry

A few weeks ago I heard Cokie Roberts say on This Week that she was surprised Romney's religion was such an issue with some voters. I get the feeling that a lot of people are about to get an education about the deep religious divisions in middle-America.

AP reports Huckabee asking:
"Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

The article, to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, says Huckabee asked the question after saying he believes Mormonism is a religion but doesn't know much about it. His rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a member of the Mormon church, which is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons will immediately recognize that characterization of their faith. The AP article shows the polite way of saying why.
A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee's question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.
Anyone who attends a major public event sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely to see people passing out leaflets outside. Every Mormon convention, open house for a new temple, or Pageant such as the City of Joseph Pageant in Nauvoo Illinois attracts people who pass out materials that Mormons view as inaccurate and insulting.

Some of those fliers raise reasonable questions about the history and beliefs of Mormonism with a heavy dose of spin. They often include quotes from early Mormon leaders saying things that haven't been taught in a Mormon church for at least 100 years. But too often they take a more extreme, misleading and ugly approach which leads most Mormons to accurately call it hate literature.

Southern Baptists aren't the only protestant denomination that conducts campaigns "warning" people about Mormonism, but they put the most effort into it. In 1998 Southern Baptists held their national convention in Salt Lake City in order to give Mormons the friendly message that they belong to a non-Christian cult and are going to hell.

One of the convention activities was going door to door in Utah neighborhoods to convert Mormons. Promotional materials about witnessing to Mormons were distributed during and after the convention, including the oft-repeated line about Jesus and Satan being brothers.

Huckabee is a former Southern Baptist minister and President of the Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention. He attended and gave a major speech at the 1998 Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference held in Salt Lake City in conjunction with their National Convention. Yet, Huckabee expects us to believe he never picked up much of anything about Mormonism after having a lead role in the denomination most dedicated to converting Mormons and after having spoke at a major convention focused on those activities.

A recent Mother Jones blog cites an email sent by godvoters.com attacking Romney that says, "At the core of Mormonism is the belief that Jesus and Satan used to be human blood brothers in a distant planet..."

This makes Huckabee's comment look less like an honest question and more like one part of a coordinated attack.

I want to make clear that I'm not attacking Southern Baptists in general. I blame religious leaders of any faith who abuse the trust their members place in them by spreading misconceptions and prejudices about other religions.

Its time for Mike Huckabee to either denounce his church's offensive campaign to mislead people about Mormonism or admit that he approves of those efforts. Does Huckabee support continued campaigns aimed at degrading the only religion to be violently driven outside American borders?