Placeholder on Mormonism in Politics


My inbox is exploding with email about whether anti-Mormonism, like what the Values Voters Summit heard from a Texas preacher this weekend, is correctly considered "bigotry." As I said it should be.

Everyone disagrees with me -- but I take some consolation from the fact that the messages all disagree with one another too. I will put up a sampling some time tonight. For now, thanks. And, Uncle!

And as a preview: Yes, I understand that religious identity is different from race and gender, in being changeable. Even though the reality is that most people stay more or less in the religious tradition to which they were born. What are the chances that Mitt Romney would be a Mormon if he had been adopted by Joe Lieberman's parents and raised alongside Joe? Or by Joe Biden's parents, for that matter? It is not certain that the adult Mitt Romney would be a Mormon just because his parents were. But it's 100 times more likely than if he had been "born" Jewish or Catholic or Lutheran.

I also understand that when religious faiths take political stands, you can oppose the faith on that basis. But extending that opposition to individual members of the faith requires (IMHO) demonstrating that in fact they apply those religio-political views in their public life.

More later, including my handy checklist for whether a political opinion is "bigoted." Thanks for, umm, the stimulation.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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