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McCain backer attacks Romney's religion

When a state committeewoman approached Mitt Romney after a speech in South Carolina, an unpleasant moment ensued. Lee Bandy of The State reports:

Romney, a possible Republican candidate for president in 2008, was in town to address the state executive committee.

Cyndi Mosteller, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of the largest GOP organizations in the state, came armed with a bunch of material -- and questions -- about the Mormon church.

The incident only underlines what could become an uncomfortable debate over Romney's faith if he runs for the White House. The issue will be on the table in South Carolina's early primary contest, where roughly 35 percent of GOP voters are evangelical Christians, many of whom view Mormonism with skepticism.

Mosteller, an evangelical, said she especially was concerned about the church's attitude toward African-Americans and its stand on polygamy.

Read the whole story at the link above.

The real story is Mosteller's background as a consultant to and supporter of . . . John McCain. Article VI Blog has the details, and South Carolinians for Romney have even more.

South Carolinians remember John McCain as the man who lied to their faces in the 2000 primary debate, and was caught red-handed. The formerly Mainstream Media would have you believe McCain is always the victim of dirty campaigning, and never the instigator of it. The facts are otherwise. It seems his supporters have the spirit, too - they are trying to besmirch a potential opponent's religious beliefs before we are even past the midterm.

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Comments (23)

Romney isn't my first choic... (Below threshold)

Romney isn't my first choice for president (McCain isn't my first choice either), buthaving concerns about the Mormon church's stand on poligamy and African-Americans would be something like having concerns about the Catholic church's stand on indulgences and sponsoring crusades to retake Jerusalem. Certainly a big kernal of truth in the past, but not something that should worry people going forward. As a Christian, I can find plenty to question about the Mormon church. But if this is the best that McCain can do, it is a pretty sad effort.

This is disengenuous on the... (Below threshold)

This is disengenuous on the part of Cyndi Mosteller. First of all, Mitt Romney is in no way an official spokesman for policies of the LDS Church. If she has questions about Church policies, she should seek answers from official Church spokesmen. Which brings us to the second point: Official and current LDS Church policies and practices regarding African-Americans and polygamy have been public record since 1978 and 1890 respectively. That she even raised the questions shows that she hasn't done even a simple internet search of lds.org, mormon.org, or even unofficial sources such as fairlds.org or blacklds.org

The LDS Church's 1890 stance on polygamy was reiterated as recently as 1998:

In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. ...

"If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church."

These policies and positions are not difficult to find. But most prefer the antimormon spin and disinformation out there because sensationalistic stuff is more fun to play with. If it wern't the National Enquirer would go out of business.

I hope McCain isn't really behind this, because it weakens the respect I have developed for him.

On Romney's part, he should have simply deflected the question by stating that he is not authorized to make authoritative or interpretive statements about Church policy since he is not an official Church spokesman or historian, and that the media and others should direct themselves to official Church sources for information, questions, and clarifications regarding Church policy and practice. To be fair, she might as well have asked Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch.

I certainly hope McCain was... (Below threshold)

I certainly hope McCain was not directly involved, although it cannot be ruled out. The woman is a long-time supporter, and the ambush smacks of the sort of sneaky, conniving backstabbing we have come to expect from McCain while he maintains a "holier-than-thou" stance for public (media) consumption.

It's a reasonable discussio... (Below threshold)

It's a reasonable discussion for a viable Presidential candidate. The practice of polygamy and racial discrimination have ended but their tenets remain foundational in the faith. In 1978 the LDS church granted the privilege to "all worthy males" but failed to repudiate the racist explanations given by the "prophets" for decades.

Polygamy is still considered a eternal principle. One of the current 12 Apostles of the LDS church, Russell M. Nelson, remarried taking his second wife in Celestial Marriage. This means that both wives will be in their polygamist marriage in heaven with this apostle.

Romney is a excellent candidate, unfortunately he believes that there is a grey haired man in Salt Lake City talks to god as the Prophet for the world. For conservative Christians and some questioning moderates such a belief raises too many questions.

Jake D: A devout Catholic ... (Below threshold)

Jake D: A devout Catholic candidate probably "believes that there is a grey haired man in Rome who talks to god" and who is infalliable on matters of religious doctrine. What's the difference? Would you vote against a devout Catholic on that basis?

Article 6 Blog is written by a practicing Mormon (me) and an evangelical Christian. It offer an in-depth discussion of all issues related to presidential politics and religion, focusing on the issues Mitt Romney's probable candidacy raises. You might like it.

Lowell Brown

Jake D, It's very ... (Below threshold)

Jake D,

It's very strange that you or any "conservative Christian" would raise these objections considering the origin of these attacks. All three of these points are consistently raised by liberals against Mormons to muddy the political water. This fits their overall mantra that Conservatives/Republicans are racist/sexist/religious fundamentalist.

Whether you yourself are a liberal troll, support another GOP candidate in 08, or an anti-Mormon, I don't know. I do know that you, Cyndi Mosteller, and any other like-minded individuals are doing everyone a disservice by framing political discussions in this manner.

As it stands right now I in... (Below threshold)

As it stands right now I intend to be a Romney supporter when the time comes. Of course, things may change depending on the circumstances, i'm not locked in to that position.

But i'm confused by the title of this message, it sounds like an MSM misleading title

McCain backer attacks Romney's religion

Having read through all the hubbub over this, I don't see how she attacked his religion.

I will never support John McCain for any political office, I can't stand the man for many reasons. But i'm worried by this type of posting. Will we not be able to ask Romney about his Mormon faith (I'm a Christian) at all? Is any questions about what he believes going to be characterized as an attack?

That concerns me.

I think we need to get ove... (Below threshold)

I think we need to get over the religion issue. There are all kinds of Mormon's serving in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Don't think any of them have caused a bit of problem because of their beliefs. The politician from SC looks far worse here than any Mormon politician I know of as they are usually quite upfront with their motivations (i.e. Harry Reid!)

Baggi ~ What relevance are ... (Below threshold)

Baggi ~ What relevance are questions about a person's religion? A candidate, unless he was involved in the setting of church doctrine, has no control over that. There are certainly many questions that can be raised from literal readings of all religions' holy texts, but what possible difference should that make in a political campaign.

The specifics of these questions are rather blatant appeals to old prejudices. The Mormons got rid of polygamy - excommunicating practitioners, the strongest penalty available - over a century ago. They were the last denomination to have segregationist rules, but these were also repudiated decades ago, and have nothing to do with the LDS church today OR Romney's candidacy.

Now, if the questioner were just some ignorant, uneducated person - and God knows we have our share down here - that would be one thing. This woman is Chairman of the Charleston County GOP, and has been active in politics a long time. She knew better.

For the record: I'm not committed for the 2008 race yet, but if our Governor Mark Sanford can't be convinced to run, I would lean towards Guiliani. I don't believe McCain is qualified by experience to be President, and I have doubts Romney can win, although I remain willing to be convinced otherwise.

But this is over the top, and it should stop, NOW. If it doesn't, and future such incidents are similarly linked to McCain backers, well, people will have to draw their own conclusions, won't they?

I hope that nobody seriousl... (Below threshold)
Don L:

I hope that nobody seriously mistakes this election as an affirmation or rejection of any religion, LDS, Evangelical, Catholic, or anything else. The election is not about proving a religion. It's about shaping economic and social policy that will form the basis of laws and direction for the next few years. Quite frankly, I find it pretty revealing to hear a few very well meaning Evangelicals claim that they wouldn't vote for a Mormon under any circumstances. And even though I'm LDS, I'm not sure who I'm going to vote for yet. If Mr. Romney wants my vote, he's going to have to demonstrate to me that his political views are the closest in approximation to mine AND that he can be trusted to lead. I'm not entirely sure that's the case yet.

I hope and expect that only... (Below threshold)

I hope and expect that only a very few Christians - evangelical and otherwise - would hold a person's religious affiliation as a disqualifying factor.

A candidate's character, OTOH, is quite germane. Living in the southeast, I haven't encountered large numbers of Mormons in my life, but those I have known have been of good character.

I don't think a Catholic candidate should be asked about interrogation methods in the Spanish Inquisition, either.

Of course, "NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no..."


Lowell,I agree tha... (Below threshold)


I agree that a practicing Catholic would have such a belief. The difference is the Pope isn't seen as a Prophet, Seer, & Revelator. Gordon B Hinckley holds the same mantle as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Unlike Warren Jeffs he hasn't followed their practice of taking teen brides but he holds the same "priesthood keys" that they did. As the largest Christian denomination in the world Catholicism, mostly, doesn't have to deal with critics calling their church a cult.


I'm a former resident of Massachusetts and a strong supporter of Romney. I'm also a Mormon, BIC, RM, etc... However I'm now counted among the 8 million inactive Mormons as I no longer hold to the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

If it's the liberals that are always raising these points against Mormons why is it the most liberal state in the union would elect Romney? The truth is quite the opposite. When Kennedy tried to play the religion card against Romney in the senate race there was such a public backlash among the "liberals" of Massachusetts that Romney actually became a serious threat to the incumbent.

You can label someone "conservative Christian", "liberal", "anti-Mormon" in a pejorative manner but it doesn't change the reality. It's the Christian right that now has and will continue to have problems with the beliefs and practices of Mormonism.

Pay lay ale,


Harry Reid, current Democra... (Below threshold)

Harry Reid, current Democrat Leader of the Senator, is a Mormon.

Orrin Hatch is a Mormon and he is the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance and also the Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There are many other Mormons currently serving on Federal and State levels.

No one would say that Reid and Hatch follow one person politically. These guys can be firm in their faith and yet feel free to view politics very differently.

Anti-Mormon bigotry is noth... (Below threshold)

Anti-Mormon bigotry is nothing new. Most people know nothing about mormonism,though we are trying to change that. I think Mitt has an uphill battle in combating those who think mormons are trying to take over the world.

I personally am concerned f... (Below threshold)
Her Amun:

I personally am concerned far more by a politicians deeds and policies than I am about his theology. Let the everyman believe what he wants about God. What we should be looking at are Mitt's credentials and political record.

Jake D.: You did not need ... (Below threshold)

Jake D.: You did not need to stoop to what you stooped to in closing your message. If you want people to take you seriously, you'll stop that.


For those of you who do not... (Below threshold)

For those of you who do not know what Jake and Lowell are referring to, Jake's closing statement is taken from the LDS temple ceremony. My father called Jake's behavior "religious pornography"; meaning to take something people consider sacred and turn it into something cheap for sale. This behavior is similar to someone quoting a Catholic Sacrament phase in politics,or like Satan quoting scripture to our Lord when Satan tempted him. As a Mormon I have long ago found that people will trample on anything sacred. These same people will mock Muhammad or the Koran to hurt the feelings of Islamic followers. They will also mock Christ or the Bible to get a hurt followers of Christ. But these people will always exist.

I apologize to anyone who i... (Below threshold)

I apologize to anyone who is offended by any language in the comments section.

I do edit some of the more egregious ones, but I generally prefer to leave them alone. The reader then can see a hint of the character of the commenters - without someone going behind to clean up after them.

I see that there's much com... (Below threshold)
Gene Hogan:

I see that there's much comment about the Cyndi Mosteller-Mitt Romney showdown. Whatever you think about that, don't be quick to write this off as a pro-McCain initiative.

I know Cyndi fairly well and have worked with her on several occasions. I am NOT a McCain supporter and she's knows that.

We've discussed the Romney incident a couple of times. I believe she is sincere in wanting to know the impact of Mormon theology on Gov. Romney's belief system.

While it's true we have freedom of religion, we have to be responsible for our beliefs, as well. Furthermore, we have the right to ask our would-be elected officials what they believe.

A person's religion has a great impact on their actions (or it should -- God save us from the politicians whose religious affiliation doesn't even register with them). We make value judgements about politicians all the time. Are they alcoholics? Are they faithful to their spouse? Are they successful in business? This issue is not different.

I know Gene Hogan as a man ... (Below threshold)

I know Gene Hogan as a man of character with no axe to grind on the issue, so I accept his counsel.

However, I still cannot see any sincerity on this woman's part in asking the specific questions she posed, both of which are very old news and smack of smears used regularly against the Mormons. If she had a theological question, there would still be a bar of relevance to pose it of a man who is a member of a religion seeking public office as opposed to a member of the order's clergy. But it might have some legitimacy.

If her intentions were indeed pure, then she is rather strikingly ignorant to ask the LDS positions on polygamy and race.

I meant to add that this is... (Below threshold)

I meant to add that this is not the first report of McCain supporters playing the "Mormon card," but Mosteller is the first to directly confront Romney and to be named in independent media. Perhaps there is no direct connection - they could be simply misguided supporters. In that case, McCain needs to call his people together NOW and nip it in the bud.

In politics, perception often becomes reality, and the Senator should step up to ensure his organization is not seen as behind some strategy to raise the issue, or risk that it will be.

Jim:Thanks for the... (Below threshold)


Thanks for the kind words. Great blog -- keep up the good work.

I don't want to "nitpick", but my point was not about Mormon theology in itself, but Gov. Romney's adherence to it (i.e. how it has an impact on his beliefs and actions). In fact, I had a call from a former Mormon out west (didn't know him -- he found me on the Internet) that reinforced the idea that these are legitimate and relevant questions.

Lowell & Sam,I und... (Below threshold)

Lowell & Sam,

I understand your offence but calling it "religious pornography" is misguided and ignorant. Any scholar of LDS church history would recognize that pay lay ale not only was used in the temple cermony but was openly discussed by the early saints.
Like "Adam ondi ahman", which is the garden of eden discovered by Joseph Smith in Missouri, "pay lay ale" was revealed to be the actual pure language spoken by Adam. There is even specific discussion of the words published by iirc the Times & Seasons of the Church when Don Carlos was editor in Far West and in numerous written talks.

I can understand how you can initially offended if you thought that the words were only discussed in the temple pre-1990.








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