Why should I, a lifelong atheist, care so much about Mormons? Perhaps it’s because we’re both on the spectrum of being unelectable, though we atheists face a bit more bias, statistically speaking, in the political realm. Indeed, 25% of Americans would be less likely to support a Mormon presidential candidate than a non-Mormon whereas a whopping 61% would be less likely to support an atheist candidate than a candidate who believes in God. Further, atheists and Mormons are both greatly misrepresented in the media. Mormons are often accused of being polygamous (which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, henceforth LDS because that’s a mouthful, hasn’t officially been since 1890), of not being Christian (one third of Americans and half of white evangelical Protestants believe that the LDS is not a Christian religion), and of being generally different (two thirds of Americans believe that Mormonism is “very different” from their own beliefs). We atheists are typically demonized for all sorts of reasons, but thank Satan we aren’t accused of being polygamous! That would be too much for my monogamous, albeit godless, heart to bear.
This misunderstanding and subsequent bias against Mormons comes to fruition in the discourses surrounding Mormon candidates for President, specifically Mitt Romney. As my fellow blogger Chelsea posted in the newsreel on Saturday, Georgia state representative Judy Manning said that, “I think Mitt Romney is a nice man, but I’m afraid of his Mormon faith …If the Mormon faith adhered to a past philosophy of pluralism, multi-wives, that doesn’t follow the Christian faith of one man and one woman, and that concerns me.” Now, this quotation may seem awful, bigoted, misguided, and repugnant to an interfaith agenda, but we must remember that Representative Manning generously noted that Romney is indeed, “better than a Muslim.” So, on the spectrum of unelectability, we have (in order of rising ungodliness): Mormons, atheists, Muslims. Excellent! Full disclosure: I’m not exactly sure how these groups stack up next to each other, because Muslims haven’t made it on to the surveys I’ve looked at yet. Apparently, they’re such a lost cause they can’t even be thought of as Presidential contenders. Hence, I place them last.
This past Tuesday in Iowa, there was a media frenzy about which candidate would successfully court the evangelical vote, as if they all spoke to each other and voted en masse, like the Catholics were purported to do with Kennedy’s election (who, it was later confirmed, was in fact taking direct orders from the Pope via Twitter throughout his Presidency). However, in general voters who identified themselves as Evangelicals or born again Christians were more likely to support Santorum (a self-proclaimed “Jesus candidate”) than Romney. Even though Romney narrowly won the Caucus with 25% of the vote, he only garnered 14% of the coveted evangelical vote where Santorum received 32%. Even though Romney narrowly won the Caucus with 25% of the vote, he only garnered 14% of the coveted evangelical vote where Santorum received 32%.
Santorum seems to understand this anti-Mormon bias and, purposely or not, has been comparing same-sex marriage to polygamy. This comparison in political discourse is not only offensive but also can only serve to hurt Romney, who 60% of Evangelical Republicans know is of the Mormon faith which is consistently and erroneously associated with polygamous marriages. It is my sincere hope that through this election cycle, Mormons will gain more acceptance and above all understanding in the public sphere. Everyone must call for tolerance and judgment based on policy and character, not faith, lest we risk perpetuating the hateful discrimination against all religious minorities in an age where the alleged dominant ideology is diversity and acceptance.
Chelsey Faloona is a junior at The George Washington University in D.C. majoring in American Studies. This summer, she received a grant to do archival research at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where she was consistently asked where her husband and children were, to which she had to respond with the sad news that she hadn’t any. Her current research interests include the intersections of race and gender in the United States as well as the Prison Industrial Complex. When asked about her political views, Chelsey claims to be a Marxist Feminist. When people who haven’t at that point run away screaming ask what she will do with her life, Chelsey explains that she wants to hide in academia forever. In her free time, Chelsey enjoys waiting for the Revolution, arguing about proper nomenclature with her fellow blogger Chelsea (sp?) Link, and (poorly) playing basketball with her younger brother.
 Arrington, L.J., & Bitton, D. The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1979, 199.