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Anti-Mormonism, the Fashionable Prejudice

Writing at Inside Higher Ed, Thomas Terry, associate professor at Idaho State University, spills the beans on anti-Mormonism in the halls of academe. Terry himself is not a Mormon but teaches in a state where 27 percent of the population are Latter-Day Saints and so knows something about them. His piece recounts some of the bigotry he has observed toward this religious group:

It was a fairly typical lunch at an academic conference in the East after the New Hampshire primary in 2008. There was a smattering of endowed professorships and international reputations at the table, perhaps eight academics in all. . . .

Dessert made its appearance and talk turned to the relative merits of the developing college basketball season and presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were hotly debated—the state’s primary promised to be a pivotal one. Then it was onto the Republicans, and Mitt Romney’s name popped up.

“I couldn’t vote for a Mormon,” one professor said. There was some polite (or perhaps impolite) head-bobbing. “It’s a cult. Very intolerant, and their opinions about women, and, well . . . ” and his voice trailed off.

I mentioned I had just been hired at a college in the West with a sizeable student and local population of Mormons—Idaho State University, in Pocatello. I wondered rhetorically whether anyone said the same thing in 1960 about voting for John F. Kennedy because he was Roman Catholic. . . .

I’ve attended numerous scholarly conferences since that lunch where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics. And it seems perfectly acceptable to express this bias. Mormons are abnormal, outside the mainstream; everybody knows that. They don’t drink alcohol and coffee. Their women are suppressed. They don’t like the cross, and their most holy book seems made up. And there’s that multiple-wives thing. At one session involving a discussion of Utah’s history, several dismissive comments were spoken, rather blithely and without any sense of embarrassment. Belittling comments were made about Mormons’ abstemiousness, and there was a general negative undercurrent.

Read the whole thing. Like Terry, Via Meadia opposes religious bigotry in all its forms, whether from the right or the left, whether promoted by pastors or Ivy League professors opining in the New York Times—and not just when it is politically convenient.

Unfortunately, as we have repeatedly documented, many fashionable and otherwise enlightened individuals have fallen short when it comes to respecting the faith of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, opting instead to stoke bigotry they would never countenance against any other religious group in order to score cheap political points.

Via Meadia will continue to call out and condemn examples of this odious practice, and all other forms of religious prejudice, as we encounter them.

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  • Harry Allan

    I wonder how much of this is anti-Mormon and how much anti-religion. It’s natural to assume that most Mormons are highly observant,and think of them (for better or worse) as we think of highly observant Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

  • Anthony

    “Via Meadia opposes religious bigotry in all its forms” remains an admirable standard by which this blog consistently reveals.

  • Steve W from Ford

    The only interesting thing about this is that some are still surprised that intelligent, well educated people are no less prejudiced, close minded and bigoted than their more numerous brethren. In reality I believe the opposite is true. One need only spend some time amongst the “common herd” to find that for the most part they have no concern about race, religion, ethnicity or creed. Perhaps it was different in the past but in my experience poorer Americans pretty much have an attitude that “we are all in this together” and they are very accepting of those different from themselves. In addition they tend not to get too excited about others political beliefs whatever the disposition.
    Would that the “elites” could say as much.

  • dr kill

    I am an atheist. I accept religious belief as a personal decision. But it is difficult for me to cut Mormons or Scientologists the same slack as Xtians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or even Pagans. Honestly, I can get past some revered family tradition about 2000 year-old reports, but 1820 or 1950?
    Come on, man. The telegraph was 1844, for crying out loud!
    I’d like to know if Mitt really believes, or if it’s just a family tradition.
    I already know how Obama feels. It’s not his lack of faith that bothers me, it’s the hypocrisy.

  • Corlyss

    I have met a surprising number of Mormon converts who first became attracted to the faith by its almost universal condemnation. Their attitude was, “If it has that many detractors, there’s gotta be something to it.” Investigation led them to the conclusion that they could certainly do worse, like the Churches of Moral and Cultural Relativism.

  • anh

    I think I know why many Jewish conservatives are supportive of Mormon Romney(and why many Jewish liberals prefer him to more traditional conservatives).
    The logic is no different from the Jewish support for the gay agenda.
    Jews are a small minority but hold elite privilege, power, and position in our society. Jews feel nervous about their status. Though possessed of vast power, they feel surrounded by goyim. So, it’s been the Jewish desire to persuade the masses of goyim that minorities, aliens, and outsider groups have every right to rule over the vast majority. By normalizing and mainstreamizing gays, Jews have convinced Americans that the abnormal is the new normal(and that normal people have to prove their moral worth by embracing abnormality, or else, THEY are abnormal.)

    Mormonism is an abnormal cult sect of Christianity, which is why most Christians hold it at arm’s length–especially the Christian Right. But with a Mormon guy as the #1 guy in the GOP(which is now mostly controlled by Zionist neocons), it’s like a mirror-reflection of Jewish/gay takeover of Democrats. Mainstream Cons and Christians have been pressured to accept an weirdo-alien-Christian(who sucks up to Zionists) as a mainstream Christian.

    Thus we have the mainstreamization of abnormality. Jews want white conservatives to get comfy with the notion that minorities and outsiders have the right to rule and dominate.

    On the other hand, Mormonism is one of the whitest, most homogeneous, and culturally conservative forces in America. That poses problems for Jews. So, Jews have this love/hate thing for Mormons. Love as fellow outsider-elites. Hate as the epitome of ‘white bread morality and unity’.

    Mormons, though not explicitly ‘racist’, have been implicitly white-ist. Its values, manners, and expressions are just more appealing to whites than to blacks or others.

  • lhf

    Somehow this prejudice doesn’t apply to Harry Reid, nor did it apply to the Udalls when various of their family ran for the presidency. It’s another example of the rules apply to you but not to us.

    Why don’t the names of Mormons who are Democrats come up whenever Romney is attacked because of his religion?

    And why are people who really believe all religions are cults (the secular, dogmatic left) allowed to single out Mormons? How do they feel about saints, exorcism, and celibate clergy?

  • Gumby

    They hate Mormons but love muslims. Hope that works out well.

  • Rob Crawford

    Wow. Nice of “anh” to self-identify.

  • TBM

    The more we are hated, the more we are maligned, the more the church of Jesus grows.

  • cubanbob

    anh says:

    The only thing abnormal is you. So you won’t vote for a Mormon but you will vote for a Marxist.

  • sandi

    “They don’t drink alcohol… Their women are suppressed. They don’t like the cross, and their most holy book seems made up. And there’s that multiple-wives thing.”
    We are, however, supposed to honor Islam no matter what and allow Muslims to practice their religion even if it is counter to local laws.

  • Mr. G

    anh, you’re a whackjob but at least you are fun whackjob. Normally I would have had to get a masters in psychotherapy to have an opportunity to hear this at essay length but you provided it free of charge and without the need of years of schooling.

    Amazing how the Jews are now responsible for the Mormons and their success. Amazing also that the Jews who are not christians should protect your sheltered ideas of christianity for your own little benefit. Wouldn’t you be happier as a Jihadist so you can impose dhimmitude? Think about it. It will also save you time….you can just write InFIDel u musta die u non – beliepher….U BlASFERMER–U WILL regrettz—Sentences like that are the real you.

    By the way have you checked out Daily Kos, Indymedia (if it still exists),, your local Democratic club? You will fit right in.

  • art.the.nerd


    I have no idea how you formed your opinion about Jews and Mormons. This Orthodox has known a few Mormons on a casual basis. Do I think their religion is weird? Yes. Do they think *my* religion is weird? Probably.

    Who cares? Every Mormon I have known is a good person with solid values: family, thrift, integrity. Almost every one has given time to do good works — what I would call “gemilut hasidim”, and what they call “living the Gospel.”

    I suggest you talk with more Jews about Mormons. But a man who writes

    “So, Jews have this love/hate thing for Mormons. Love as fellow outsider-elites. Hate as the epitome of ‘white bread morality and unity’”

    and who thinks that the Gay Rights movement is a Jewish plot, is hard to take seriously.

  • Armando

    If you check anh’s blog, you’ll see that he/she identifies him/herself as a “neo-fascist”.

  • huxley

    I looked into Mormonism some time ago and concluded that its divine claims are indeed bogus.

    However, as I’ve aged and possibly matured, I’ve realized that we humans are very limited and reality is far vaster than we can possibly comprehend, thus we all live within a matrix of beliefs and myths that we can’t prove.

    So I don’t care much about whether a person is Mormon, Christian, atheist or whatever. I care about the morals and behavior that people build from their beliefs.

  • SDN

    anh. my wife is the daughter of a Conservative rabbi. According to her, Christianity would be looked at as a cultic heresy of Judaism… if anyone wanted to bother.

  • dicentra

    “One need only spend some time amongst the ‘common herd’ to find that for the most part they have no concern about race, religion, ethnicity or creed.”

    Among the so-called “white trash,” they only care whether you look down on them. If you’re not “stuck up,” you’re OK with them, regardless of any tribe you may belong to.

  • submandave

    The great unspoken in academia, as in all of the self-identified elite, are the assumptions. First and foremost is political identity. If one is politically pure (i.e. Democrat for starters), then other transgressions (religion, racism, sexism, etc.) are forgiven. Second is minority status, and for all minorities this carries the assumption of proper political alignment. This is why political apostates among recognized minorities (black, gays, hispanic, etc.) are particularly anathema to them. Fourth is gender, or more specifically non-male. The same applies here WRT apostates. Finally , atheism is the preferred “religion,” but is one has the right political credentials (e.g. Harry Reid (LDS), Nancy Pelosi (Catholic), formerly Joe Lieberman (Jew)) then this can be overlooked as most probably just paying lip-service.

  • Rufus T. Rumpswab

    Pretty much all of those criticisms apply ti Islam. What if an open Muslim were running?

  • 51Bottles

    I, for one, would like to welcome the Church of Latter Day Saints to the same fashionable prejudice we in the Catholic Church have long enjoyed in America. I’d *LIKE* to, but I can’t, as the LDS seems to have held that same status almost since its very start.

    Would a Romney presidency provide the same general acceptance for Mormonism as the Kennedy presidency did for Catholicism? Who could say, especially since it’s hard to say just how American Catholicism may have benefitted from JFK, if at all.

    Keep up the good work, WRM; “You will know them by their fruits.” Mt7:16

  • doug santo

    This was a good post by Mr. Mead.

    The comment by anh: June 1, 2012 at 4:38 am is crackpot nonsense.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

  • Cynedra

    One of the questions asked was about whether JFK was subject to similar things as Mitt Romney is, and from my understanding he was. It was question whether he would look to the pope for all of his decisions should he become elected.

  • rasqual

    I’m a veteran of thousands of conversations with Mormons, with whom as an orthodox Christian I took theological issue on many points. In short, I was engaged in apologetics in disagreement with them for years.

    And that has little to do with Romney. I’ll certainly be voting for him.

    It’s possible to be in grave disagreement with Mormons (or anyone else) and still support what they do in this world as fellow-citizens. Romney seems a cut above any number of folks who’ve run for, and won, the presidency.

    Anyone who holds Romney’s Mormonism against him can come argue with this “anti-Mormon” apologist. I’ll give ’em a piece of my mind. 😉

  • Jared

    @anh I think it would be good to know that the majority of the LDS church membership is actually outside the USA and mainly among South Americans and Africans as well as very strongly represented in the Pacific Islands (over 60% on some islands). I would guess that there are more non-whites than white members and if not yet it will soon be so. Our world-wide meeting held semi-annually is broadcast in over 80 languages. I actually think this could be a major boost for Romney among Latin voters as it is by far the fastest growing demographic in the LDS church even here in the states.

    I think this article is very insightful especially for those who know little about the LDS church. FYI I am a member of the LDS church and have lived in NY, TX, ID, and raised in UT and have never been mistreated over issues of faith. Rather I have found people to be very respectful of my beliefs and hope I portrait the same. Thank you WRM and the many others adding comments for promoting a candid yet tasteful dialogue.

  • JorgXMcKie

    I grew up among poor, Appalachian-descended whites, mostly “Hard-rock” Baptists. For them, there was/is “us” and “them”. They accept as “us” those who live with them and are “good neighbors”. All they mostly want from “them” is to be “left-the-hell-alone”.

    They speak in *very* non-PC terms, but are usually warm and accepting to “The Other” so long as they meet the above standards.

  • PaukV

    Democrats had the same opinion on Al Smith in 1928 and JFK in 1960. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • huxley

    51bottles @ 51: I believe that, win or lose, the Romney candidacy will be a turning point towards greater acceptance for Mormons in America.

    More so if Romney wins, of course.

  • Tblakely

    Well to me the big question about Mormonism is does it play well with society at large.

    Are Mormons non-productive members of society?

    Are Mormons prone to violence and/or criminal behaviour?

    Do Mormans harass non-believers?

    From what I’ve seen the answer to all the above questions is a resounding no. Given that why should Mormonism be a detriment in a presidential candidate?

  • Kebert Xela

    An assumption of “enlightenment” is pro forma, I understand, but in our black little hearts it is probably more practical and accurate to assume the curtain of night rules behind the eyes we engage, as we should presume it does behind our own, absent vigorous and continuous rectification. This also applies to the Mormons. Certainly there is bigotry but with the Mormons there is also secrecy and, I’m sorry, although I am not an especially religious fellow myself, LDS is freakie-deakie. Perhaps Kennedy’s Catholicism was similarly villified back in da day but while there are Catholic mysteries there are NOT Catholic doctrinal secrets; maybe at the Vatican level, who knows? But IS it true that Mormons believe god was once a man and achieved godhood, was more or less promoted by a previous god who had ascended the same way? Does he not believe that he can, through works, also become a god divinely bonded to Ann? Maybe that’s no crazier than transubstantiation but it is prevaricated on and for sound electoral reasons. Who would vote for a man who, Ceasar-like, aspires to godhood? Twice?

  • vince52

    There needs to be a shorthand word or phrase that conveys the sense that Mormonism as constructed by Joseph Smith has nearly zero truth value, but that Mormons are welcome and desirable as friends, neighbors, and citizens.
    I propose the word “rutabaga”.It wasn’t being used for anything especially useful. It’s not like we’re removing a handy word from our conventional discourse.
    So my opinion is rutabaga.

  • Mollie Ricketts

    I believe that the LDS religion is in error and stand by that view. That is not bigotry. I am also a Romney supporter because I think he a good, decent man and I do not fear any malign influence of his religion on his behavior.

  • Jared

    @ Dr. Kill you say, “it is difficult for me to cut Mormons or Scientologists the same slack as Xtians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or even Pagans. Honestly, I can get past some revered family tradition about 2000 year-old reports, but 1820 or 1950?
    Come on, man. The telegraph was 1844, for crying out loud!”

    The LDS church believes the gospel preached from the beginning to Adam was the same gospel Christ taught and that Joseph Smith received. We believe that Christ’s church fell into apostasy (and has happened numerous times throughout history)as the apostles were killed and rejected and had to be restored. In essence Protestants believe the Catholic church erred hence the massive schism as I think it would be correct to say they are an outgrowth of the Catholic church and are considered reformers.

    There are many compelling logical reasons to believe…Joseph Smith long before science ‘discovered’ the ills of tobacco spoke out against it. Joseph Smith prophesied in 1832 that, ‘war [would] be poured out upon all nations,’ beginning ‘at the rebellion of South Carolina,’ and that ‘the Southern States [would] be divided against the Northern States’ (D&C 87:1-3.) We have an expansive view on the universe and believe there are multitudes of inhabited planets. We feel that good religion and science should be in harmony one with the other. We believe that revelation continues today and that it is a ‘living’ religion guided by modern apostles.

    Most importantly, however, are the intangibles of faith and feelings. By no means do I expect to convert this readership, but there are numerous reasons that are much more persuasive than given in the stereotypical summaries of any religion.

  • thibaud

    Romney has a long record in public life. His character, policies and judgment should be judged on that record, not on his views toward supernatural phenomena.

  • DH

    I’m an atheist, but I grew up with Mormons and have lived near them recently. As a rule, they are unusually decent people who make good neighbors. I don’t find their beliefs any more kooky than those of other religions, and in some ways they are more “naturalistic” — with the apparent notion (under some interpretations) that God exists within our own universe, as opposed to within an unknowable supernatural dimension. In any case, I would certainly take a Mormon over the nihilist who currently occupies the White House.

  • Retired Prosecutor

    People simply do not understand the current iteration of prejudice against Mormons, it’s not simply unthinking bigotry and so I need to explain it. The variety of the LDS religion that Mitt practices is bad while the variety Harry Reid practice is good . It’s a bit like rich folk: Democrat rich guy good, GOP wealthy person is heartless plutocrat. Have I cleared all of this up for you>

  • ken

    When I was in Salt Lake City a few years ago, the Mormon complex—The tabernacle, conference center, and the genealogy center were swamped with visiting, mostly non-white foreign Mormons. They were like pilgrims. Mormons are reaching out to all races and nationalities. The claim that they are a white supremacist group is nonsense.

  • Drk

    I’d like to take issue with Dr. Kill’s comment. He seems to think that a religion is only valid if it is ancient. By that reckoning, the most valid religions would be the cults of the pharoahs and the ancient Greek.

    Look at Baha’i Faith. It was founded 150 years ago; it has 5 million adherents and is growing fast. The Baha’i of Iran endure outrageous discrimination and still hang on to their beliefs.

    Or look at the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica, which started in the 1930s and took the Emperor of Ethiopia as its prophet. There are about 1 million Rastas in the world today.

    There are about 12 million Mormons in the world. The religions was founded in the 1820s.

    Old and new are not good criteria for judging the qualities of a faith. I think number of adherents is a far better yardstick.

  • Jared

    @#30 Kebert Xela…I think we would say sacred not secret. You can access all the ‘secret’ temple ceremonies on youtube. While I don’t condone it they are there and I would say there is nothing secret or scary about it.

    We see God as a omnipotent yet merciful and personal being. If that is what Romney is aspiring to how is that a bad thing?

  • teapartydoc

    Mormons are all creepy polygamist weirdos that wear funny underwear. And I’m going to vote for one to be president in the fall. What does that say about the guy in the White House now?

  • Josh

    Thank you all for your input (even anh). With regards to having an LDS president, I’m a bit torn on the matter. From everything I’ve heard, Mitt’s a pretty good decent guy. He’s certainly got _some_ things going for him that don’t involve the magical “hope and change”. That’s great.

    The only worry that I have is that when he makes decisions that are only popular with the first 50% of the population, the second 50% will start mocking the religion and other members for it. Then when he makes decisions that are only popular with the second 50%, the members will be in the line of fire of the first 50%. It’s a no-win situation.

    Can’t a politician just be a politician, and not have to have his religion brought up so incessantly?

    disclosure: I am a LDS convert from California who has since lived in Texas, Oregon, the Caribbean, and now Utah. I am a small-l libertarian who is pretty well disgusted with both parties, but more so with the Democrats. I most likely will not be voting for Mitt, as I know that he’s going to take Utah, and I want to send a message with my vote. The message I want sent to all of the political parties is: “I am but one, but there are thousands of people like me. Don’t forget to work for our votes.”

  • richard40

    I find it a bit ironic that these leftist academics disdain Mormons, when from all evidence I have seen Mormons are good hard working, law abiding, peaceful people, who do not oppress other faiths (disagreement is not oppression, unless it turns violent), and treat their wives and family very well. But these same academics will ardently defend any attacks against Muslims, even though it is apparent that there is a pretty large violent streak in Islam, they routinely treat women and homosexuals far worse than even the worst Mormon ever would, and they do not work well with other faiths (at least when Muslims are in the majority, and sometimes even when they are not).

    As another poster has also made clear, I dont see any leftist academics saying Harry Reid is some kind of a menace because of his Mormonism. Once again confirming that anything leftists think is bad (unusual faith, treating individual women like dirt, making racist/sexist remarks, being rich) is perfectly excusable if a dem does it. Rank hipocracy.

  • BlogDog

    Meanwhile politically correct Islam treats its women *so* well….

  • Rich K

    This is America and I can choose to play the god game or not and frankly I have no issue with Romney,s faith.What I do have issue with is his commitment to actually fix a few things at the top if he wins. In that regard I have NO faith in him what so ever.I hope to be proved wrong but Vegas wont take my odds.

  • MJS

    Good article.

    I think it is funny that people say it is bad to attack a Mormon, and then start spouting off about how bad Muslims are. I smell a little hypocrisy …

    @teapartydoc – Hilarious comment, and I am an active Mormon!

    Seeing as how through the history of our country, huge, laborious steps have been taken to completely sever religion and government, why is it even a discussion what religion a candidate adheres to? If old Mitt tried to convert the country to his “cult”, all the while mass producing his “magical underwear” in hopes to pass a bill forcing Americans to wear it, would he last long as president? Honestly, what are people so afraid of?

    Mitt Romney, and every other politician for that matter, went into politics for a reason, and it wasn’t because of their radical hopes of religious conquest. They are politicians, and while some of them hold strange ideas, I don’t think most of them are doing it to further their church. Romney is no exception.

    People will believe anything, especially if it is negative, and double especially if it is about a religion. Most of the crazy stuff you hear about Mormons is either lies or spun wildly out of context.

    That said, I feel like Mormons are treated pretty well (in the US), as long as Prop 8 isn’t brought up 😉

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