Tales of Religio-Conservative Hypocrites, Part 1

JESUSLAND—As everyone must know by now, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church, has been around since the early 1800s, and as its name implies, it's a Christian church. The "Jesus Christ" part is kind of a giveaway.

So one has to wonder why Douglas MacKinnon, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as former press secretary to Bob Dole, would feel the need to pen an article on Townhall.com today encouraging President Obama to "vigorously declare that a candidate's faith should be 'off limits'." After all, they're both Christians, just of different sects.

Of course, it's too bad that MacKinnon didn't get that idea four years ago when politicians, preachers and pundits on the right had decided that just because Obama had attended services at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, that he shared all the views of its pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But it's well-known that right-wingers have very short memories when its suits them.

But, one might ask, what spurred MacKinnon to write his article now, as the presidential campaign is just beginning to get into full swing? Well, according to MacKinnon, it's "[b]ecause the Obama White House and campaign are counting on the smear-merchants from the left to continually target Mitt Romney's faith from now to Election Day."

Of course, when MacKinnon uses the phrase "smear-merchants," one should always bear in mind smear-merchant Stephen Colbert's admonition at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association Dinner that, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

But MacKinnon wasn't talking in generalities; no, sir!

"For the moment, it seems that Maureen Dowd of The New York Times has been handed the baton and is leading the smear parade for the far left" against Romney's Mormon faith, MacKinnon wrote. "She has already written several columns that have questioned Mitt Romney and his faith. Columns that have been reprinted in hundreds of newspapers and have been quoted on numerous shows."

Aside from the fact that few on the left take alleged smear-merchant Maureen Dowd at all seriously, MacKinnon's accusation is simple horseshit. A scan of Dowd's columns for the last two years reveal few mentions of Mormonism, let alone Romney's faith in it. The most recent was in mid-April, where Dowd discussed left activist Hilary Rosen's comment that Ann Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life"—but her only mention of religion was to state that when the Romneys were first married, "they set up house in a suburb, befriended other young Mormon couples and kept to their cloistered, conservative, privileged, traditional, white, heterosexual circle." Anyone who could misconstrue that as a comment on Romney's faith would have to be reading it through Rove-colored glasses.

Before that, she wrote a column discussing how Romney apparently feels that he must hide his religious beliefs from the electorate, and it's the closest she comes to Mormon-bashing. Trouble is, it's mainly factual statements coupled with a few simple deductions anyone could make from those facts.

"It’s a metaphor alert," Dowd wrote of a Wall Street Journal story about Romney's application to double the size of his La Jolla beach house, "reinforcing the two image problems Romney has: that he’s an out-of-touch plutocrat and that his true nature is buried where we can’t see it."

"Romney also feels he must hide an essential part of who he is: a pillar of the Mormon Church," she later added. "He fears he would turn off voters by talking too much about a faith that many evangelicals dismiss as a cult and not a true Christian religion."

If Dowd is somehow wrong about that, it's an error that, within the past couple of days, has been shared by TV evangelist Pat Robertson and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler, Jr..

"It looks like the people who were worried about his Mormonism, at least that crowd is diminishing somewhat," Robertson said after interviewing Romney on The 700 Club this weekend. "The question is, if you have two candidates, you don't have Jesus running against someone else. You have Obama running against Romney."

Not exactly a stirring endorsement of the prospective Repugnican candidate—and Robertson spokesman Chris Roslan put another nail in that coffin by stating, "What he's saying there is that Romney's Mormonism is no longer an issue, so it's a fairly level playing field. He's not endorsing Romney by any means."

But of course, for some, Romney's Mormonism is still an issue... like when he addressed the graduating class of Liberty Bible College University on Saturday, stating, "People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview."

This "bridging the gap" view led Mohler to "applaud[] Romney for acknowledging that Mormonism is different: 'It was a healthy and honest and I would say necessary thing for Gov. Romney to say that.'"

Dowd also commented on last year's revelation that Mormons had been baptizing Holocaust victims into the Mormon faith wholesale—a subject she'd mentioned at least once before—noting that Romney had told Newsweek back in 2007 that he'd done such baptisms "in my life, but I haven't recently."

The point is, Dowd has mentioned Mormons just 12 times in the past two years, most having nothing to do with Romney—one, for instance, was about the success of the Broadway play "The Book of Mormon"—so it's hard to see how she could be "leading the smear parade for the far left."

Other "smear-merchants," according to Mackinnon, include Jeffrey Weiss of RealClearPolitics, who dared to state, "It is past time for Mitt Romney to address relevant questions about his religion," to which MacKinnon rejoined, "Really? Does Weiss then have an obligation to 'address relevant questions about his religion?'" (Well, he might, if Weiss were running for the highest office in the land.)

The other evidence? HBO jackass Bill Maher supposedly joked that Romney's faith "was so ridiculous that even Tom Cruise wouldn't join it," and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell supposedly stated that much of Romney's religion is "made up"—without, of course, linking to the original statement so readers could see how (likely) out-of-context MacKinnon took the remark—if indeed O'Donnell ever said it at all! (And, um, Doug? Which religion isn't "made up"?)

The penultimate "smear," though, is a CNN segment where photos of Romney, Harry Reid, Gladys Knight and some others were shown and the question asked, "What do they all have in common?" The answer, of course, was that they're all Mormons, but it's difficult to understand how linking Romney to the lead singer of the Pips is somehow defamatory to Romney's (and Knight's) religion.

So clearly, the idea that folks on the left are smearing Romney for his (incredibly retrograde) religion is just another religio-conservative fantasy, and now that Romney is almost certain to be the Repugnican presidential candidate, a fantasy that most of the right-wing pundits will buy into over the coming days and weeks... but clearly, not everyone in the Right Wingosphere has gotten the message.

According to a press release issued today by the "world's leading Internet Evangelist" Bill Keller, Keller said in an interview with the Christian Post, "A Christian is faced with a difficult dilemma this November. It is literally Satan flipping a two-headed coin with his head on both sides... How  can a Christian in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney, a 5th generation member and priest in the satanic Mormon cult. His Presidency would give his cult the mainstream acceptance they have always wanted since being founded 200 years ago. Conservative estimates are that his cult will add at least 1 million converts in the US alone. For a Christian, that means 1 million souls who will buy into a false Gospel and end up in hell for all eternity!

"Keller has been a long-time critic of ... Romney and his cult, for lying to people that they are Christians when Mormon doctrine is 100% inconsistent with Biblical Christianity," Keller's press release continued. "The 'god' and 'jesus' of the Mormon cult are NOT the God and Jesus of the Bible," Keller stated. He concluded, "a Mormon is no more a Christian than a Muslim is!"

Equally humorous are the attacks from Bryan Fischer, the head on-air honcho of American Family Radio, the main media arm of the anti-porn, anti-sex, anti-liberated woman American Family Association.

[Mormonism] is not a Christian faith," Fischer declared on his Focal Point internet radio show in late January. "It is, as Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas says, a false religion. So it's kind of a striking things and I know it concerns a number of spiritual leaders, and I count myself among them, is what this would mean for the spiritual health of the United States of America is a worshiper of a false god occupied the White House. You know, what that would mean for the spiritual future of America and what it might reveal about the spiritual weakness of America if the American people, particularly the so-called conservatives, the people of faith in America, would promote someone to the highest office in the land who is a follower of a counterfeit faith, a false religion."

As recently as April 10, Fischer doubled down, declaring on Focal Point that, "The reality is that there are just a number of Evangelicals that just will not vote for Romney because they do not want to put somebody who believes in a different god in the White House, which is perfectly understandable. He's a spiritually compromised candidate; that's the only way to put it. If he goes into the Oval Office, he will be the first polytheist that we've ever had as a president. Mitt Romney would be the first non-Christian president that we've ever had; the first president that we've ever had that did not emerge from a stream of historic Christian orthodoxy.

"So this would be unprecedented, and it would be unprecedented spiritually," Fischer continued. "You remember the prophets, this is one of the things that they were toughest on the kings about is departing the worship of the true and living God for alternative gods. This was something that weakened a nation and so we're looking at that, if Mitt Romney becomes the president, we have a spiritually-compromised president who will be the first polytheist to ever hold the Oval Office, the first president who has ever believed in a multiplicity of gods, the first president who has ever believe that man can become a god, and that God didn't used to be God, he used to be a man who progressed to godhood. So this would be completely uncharted waters for America."

Wow! Guess MacKinnon will now have to write a column calling for right-wingers, fundamentalists and evangelicals to stop bashing Romney for his fucked-up religion—which of course is only slightly more fucked-up than their own.

Pictured: Seamus.