Imagine if there was a candidate for the presidency, the highest and most powerful office in the United States, and that he or she once held an official position in a religious order with which they were still very closely involved.
Imagine if that same candidate was raised to be one of the “elect,” with special obligations and a “divine” destiny to ensure that his religion saved America when its Constitution was “hanging by a thread.”
Imagine if this candidate for President belonged to a religion which long argued that black people were judged by God to be “cowards” who were not worthy of true “salvation.” Consequently, black people were destined for servitude and second class citizenship relative to white folks, even in the afterlife.
Finally, imagine if this same religion held such beliefs until 1978—not a century ago, or two hundred years ago—but less than 40 years in the recent past.
We have such a candidate today. His name is Mitt Romney.
Pluralism and tolerance are wonderful values for a society to embrace. Although the United States has been far from perfect in this regard, a belief that our differences can also be a source of strength is part of our national creed.
However, an embrace of diversity and pluralism should not prevent us from asking hard questions about which values ought to be encouraged, and if there are some beliefs and habits that are actually antithetical to our democratic project.
As the American people decide upon their next president in the months and days leading up to November’s election, these questions are made even more important.
Americans do not usually like talking publicly about religion and politics because both are understood by many people to be private matters. However, this anxiety should not stop us from asking basic questions when a concern arises that a candidate’s religion may complicate their loyalty to the Constitution, or make it either impossible or difficult for them to treat all Americans equally regardless of race, creed, or color.