Posts tagged: Orin Hatch

Mosque at Ground Zero

By , February 12, 2011 12:48 pm

Last August, Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University and a blogger on CNN, wrote two different posts about the Mormon reaction to a Muslim group’s efforts to build a mosque at Ground Zero. The first lamented the fact that some prominent Mormons–Mitt Romney and Harry Reid–had both spoken against the mosque. So had Glenn Beck. Prothero was particularly disturbed that Romney had done so (through a spokesperson) because he had been so impressed by Romney’s religion speech during the most recent presidential campaign and because of Romney’s experience with the opposition to the Boston Temple. (Prothero, by the way, seems to have a good grasp on Latter-day Saint history.) He writes,

As I wrote in my 2007 piece on this speech, for Romney, the moral of this history lesson was clear:

Americans today should rise above religious bigotry, not least by evaluating presidential candidates on the basis of their credentials instead of their religious tradition. After all, Romney said, “Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.”

These were the words that came to me when Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders started to double down on the anti-Islamic rhetoric.

I thought that Romney, as a Mormon, might speak out passionately for the First Amendment. I thought he might remember how the founder of his religion, Joseph Smith Jr., was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob. I thought he might recall how the U.S. government brought down much of its coercive power against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Apparently not. According to a statement released on August 10 by his spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom, “Governor Romney opposes the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero. The wishes of the families of the deceased and the potential for extremists to use the mosque for global recruiting and propaganda compel rejection of this site.”

The second discussed Senator Hatch’s position, which was captured by Salt Lake City’s Fox News 13:


Prothero’s reaction to Romney’s and Hatch’s statements prompted me to think about what my stance on the proposed mosque was back then. I realized that I disagreed with Romney. My stance was then and is now similar to Hatch’s: it would be a nice gesture if the mosque’s proponents chose to build elsewhere out of respect for what happened on 9/11; however, I recognize and support their 1st Amendment rights to build where they are planning to build.

I have a long memory, a memory that extends back to the persecution of my Church in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a memory of recent times when people in Boston, Billings, Denver, and places north and south, east and west, opposed the building of a Mormon temple–always for allegedly non-religious reasons. That opposition was a predictable as the rising sun was an irony that always escaped the protestors.

I suspect that religious bigotry imbues most of the opposition to the mosque as well. I don’t think Romney is bigoted. I do think he is in a rush to the Right, however, in his pursuit of the presidency. I have defended him in the past from the flip criticism that he flip flops a lot. I’ll take a flip from anybody if it demonstrates that they’ve learned something. However, too much pandering is not a good thing. I’ll be watching him closely, as I will Hatch, now that he’s pursuing the Tea Party vote.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy