The current frontrunner in the Republican presidential race is a Mormon. This weekend, that fact finally overshadowed policy debate in another spat between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. By REBECCA DAVIS.
Rick Perry, who is currently trailing Romney in the polls, spoke at a Conservative conference in Washington on Friday. Before he did so, however, he was introduced by his friend Robert Jeffress, an evangelical Christian leader from Texas. After the conference Jeffress told journalists that Mormonism was “a cult” and suggested that the fact Romney was a Mormon should be sufficient motivation for Christians to deny him their vote. “Every true born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian,” he said.
In a speech on Saturday, Romney struck back, saying that “The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate”.
The squabble may seem like nothing more than dirty tricks politicking – presidential candidates will use any ammunition they can find to discredit their opponents. But it reflects a wider suspicion of Mormonism in American society. There have even been suggestions that Romney will lose the votes of American evangelicals as a result of his faith.
Much of the suspicion about Mormonism is attributable to the circulation of myths about the religion, including the idea that polygamy is standard (in fact, it is practised only in small pockets of Mormon fundamentalists). The Mormon religion has been widely pilloried in popular culture, most memorably in a “South Park” episode entitled “All About Mormons”, which satirises the origins of Mormonism via its founder, Joseph Smith.
Romney still enjoys a comfortable lead over Perry, however, and this latest episode may have the opposite of the intended effect – winning him the sympathy vote. DM
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