In a June 3 Outlook commentary, “When is Mormonism fair game?,” a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was quoted as writing that news reports referring to Romney’s faith should be tested by substituting “Jew” or “Jewish” where “Mormon” is used. The comparison is absurd.
In addition to being a religion, Judaism is an ethnicity and is often considered a nationality. Mormonism is solely a religion, one in which, unlike Judaism, belief is paramount; secular Mormons, if they exist, are few and far between.
On the other hand, Jewish belief is all over the map. For example, there are dyed-in-the-wool atheists who regard themselves as Jews and are so regarded by others and by halachah (Jewish religious law). Moreover, most anti-Semitism in the past 150 years has been based on attacking Jews as a people and as a so-called “race,” not for their religious beliefs or practices.
Any discussion of religion, especially in a political context, is likely to be fraught with tension and can go beyond appropriate lines, such as when Bill Maher referred to Mormonism as a cult. However, religious belief is a legitimate and essential topic for discussion and debate.
Paul L. Scham, Washington
The writer is executive director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland.
The Romney campaign’s strategy of trying to “guilt-trip” reporters, as Post reporter Jason Horowitz put it in his Outlook commentary, into not writing about Mormon peculiarities is smart but cynical. The campaign wants the American people to credit Mitt Romney with being a man of faith who, more than President Obama, shares their values. Meanwhile, he appears to ignore inconvenient truths about the doctrines and history of the church that clearly shaped his values.
Over the years, Mr. Romney has changed positions on everything from health-care reform to abortion rights, but he has consistently and unquestioningly supported the Mormon church and donated money to it.
Is Mr. Romney’s Mormonism “fair game”? I don’t know, but the power of its hold on a notorious flip-flopper is certainly intriguing.
Nathan Austin, Dulles