At the beginning of June, a Pew poll showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents didn’t care if their presidential candidate was a Mormon. This was good news for Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, two Mormon candidates in the Republican primary. If this poll holds true, Mormonism could be less of an issue in the 2012 campaign than many predicted — at least, if Fox News doesn’t make it into one.
During a conversation on Fox and Friends this Sunday, host Ainsley Earhardt casually remarked that Romney was “obviously not a Christian.” The segment was about the increasing likelihood of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s candidacy for president, and Earhardt was speculating about Perry’s fundraising power, in comparison to Romney.
“The Christian Coalition, I think [Perry] could get a lot of money coming from that base, because Romney,” Earhardt said, “obviously not being a Christian, Rick Perry, he’s always on Christian talk shows, he has days of prayer in Texas.”
Mormonism has been a controversial religion since it was founded in the early nineteenth-century. Although the prophesies and revelations of Mormon authorities like Joseph Smith are regarded as heretical by some Christians, the religion is nearly uniformly accepted as a distinct branch of Christianity. The church’s name, Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, shows that while Mormons may have theological and doctrinal differences with Protestants or Catholics, they are, at the most fundamental level, part of the same religion.
It’s plain why Fox News is trying to make this into an issue: evangelical Christian leaders are pushing Perry hard to be the presidential nominee, and one of Romney’s potential weaknesses (in addition to health care) is his religion. Will they be successful in making their viewers suspicious of Romney’s Christian faith? It seems like a cheap shot — but after all, it is Fox News.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.