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.