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Mitt Romney's Role as Mormon Bishop Shows His Extremist Religious Beliefs

Romney has consistently avoided having his Mormon beliefs put under scrutiny. There are some good reasons for that.

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Chosen as a kind of enforcer-in-chief, Romney betrayed a zeal far beyond the call of duty. Bishop Romney tried to stop a mother of four whose health was seriously endangered by her pregnancy from having an abortion. The church allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother, provided a male LDS authority gives permission to the pregnant woman. Romney's superior had already told the woman to proceed for the sake of her health; Romney intervened. Romney refused to allow an infertile couple to take advantage of the LDS adoption service until the wife agreed to quit her job and be a stay-at-home mother. Other reliable reports of Mitt’s years as a Mormon clergyman have him excommunicating adulterers, calling homosexuals under his authority “ perverse,” warning a middle-aged divorced woman that she was not allowed to have sex, and telling a leading Mormon feminist, “ You’re not my kind of Mormon.”

Perhaps this is why Romney has been as cagey about his Mormonism as he is about his Cayman Islands tax shelters.

Mormon theology—its view of God, the afterlife or Joseph Smith’s revelation—is not at issue here. The issue is whether a President Romney would be able to separate his actions as president from Mormon doctrines about how to live on this planet.

The record from Romney's four brief years in elected office is not comforting.

Candidate Romney supported a women’s right to legal abortion, and opposed abstinence-only sex education; Governor Romney opposed abortion, tried to roll back reproductive rights and embryonic stem-cell research, and expanded abstinence-only sex education. The candidate dropped pink fliers at Boston’s Gay Pride parade saying, “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend.” Mitt the governor tried to change state law to allow Catholic adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. Most troubling, given the credible Washington Post report about a teenaged Mitt chopping off the hair of a gay classmate, was Romney’s elimination of the governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. The commission had been chartered by Republican Governor William Weld to tackle the problem of gay teen suicide.

Given recent controversies over rape and abortion, one particular decision by Governor Romney merits renewed scrutiny. In July 2005, Romney cut short a New Hampshire vacation in order to veto a bill requiring hospitals to give emergency contraception to rape victims. (The legislature overrode his veto.) Romney defended his veto by claiming he had “spoken with medical professionals” who had informed him that the morning-after pill could work as “an abortion pill.” Who those unnamed scientists are and what they told Romney is unknown. But Romney’s contention is as false, if not as patently absurd, as Todd Akin’s now classic “legitimate rape” canard. The morning-after pill contains a different dose of hormonal contraception to prevent pregnancy; it does not induce abortion. Romney persists in calling emergency contraception “ abortive pills.”

Mitt’s Mormonism matters because in the one elective office he has held, he governed in accord with Mormon doctrines and against the consensus values of the citizens who elected him. It matters because, by all accounts, it has been the most powerful influence in forging his values and identity. And it matters because the Mormon Church has deployed its wealth and power in the political arena for the purpose of keeping women and gays in their God-given place.

The LDS Church’s outsized role in California’s Proposition 8 is only the most notorious of the Mormon hierarchy’s political campaigns. Mormons contributed up to half of the $40 million spent by the successful campaign to repeal gay marriage in California. This was no spontaneous, grassroots effort. Most of that money came in after Salt Lake City emailed Mormons to warn that Prop. 8 was losing and ask for contributions. As Michael Otterson, the LDS managing director of public affairs, explained, the church “felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand.”

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