The Mormon Revival: Once Again, Religion Is Now Fair Game

June 5, 2012 at 7:25 am

Remember the good old days (a few weeks ago) when the media frowned upon talking about a candidate’s religion? The eagle eyes in the press were all over those right-wing Neanderthals who might in some way allude to Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion. It was totally out of bounds, benighted, a holdover from a darker, uglier time.

Religious prejudice was a box that John F. Kennedy broke out of, setting a new standard for legitimate political discourse. So during the Republican primary every candidate was expected to proclaim that “a person’s religion should have no bearing on their fitness to hold office. It’s not an issue in this race.”

That was acceptable Beltway behavior and mainstream thinking … until it wasn’t.

Romney’s religion hasn’t changed, but his opponent has. So the acceptable norms of political dialogue have changed as well. Oh, Obama, his political adviser, David Axelrod, and the gang still give lip service to the irrelevance of Romney’s religion but, as usual, they can have it both ways, sitting back while the media does their work for them.

Suddenly the Mormon religion is not only relevant, it is irresistible. Have you noticed the steady stream of stories on the Mormon Church, Mormon history and the extent to which Romney adheres to Mormon tenets?

Such coverage wasn’t legitimate in the primary but boy it is now, under the guise of, “Although we may think it’s not a legitimate subject, some do and we’re just reporting on what effect it might have on the election.” My favorite recent piece using that excuse was in Sunday’s New York Times, which posed the question: “When is it legitimate to report on Romney’s Mormonism?” In other words: “We’re not talking about it. We’re just talking to people who are talking about it.”

A more honest approach would be to acknowledge that once again religion is now fair game … unless, of course, it has anything to do with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Fred Thompson