Huckabee's anti-Mormonism: An old American lesson

Why is it that Americans have never elected an ordained minister, priest or rabbi as President? After all, the Founders were steeped in what has been called the "civil religion" of America.   Every time when our survival was at stake, from the War of 1812 to the attack on 9/11, the president in office appealed to the common elements of religious faith -- without excluding those who profess no faith. It's called religious tolerance, and it is a precious rarity in human history.

When Mike Huckabee dropped his "innocent" slam at Mormons to a NY Times reporter last month, he violated that tacit understanding in American politics. "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" he asked, knowing full well it would make headlines.    It was a bigoted slap at Mitt Romney, and we now know that Huck carried the Bible Belt anyway. Slamming Mormons might have helped him get votes, and in any case, it didn't hurt him. But it's bad news for America, because faith-baiting is no better than race-baiting. It is divisive and contemptuous of those who deserve our respect.

Notice the parallel to Huckabee's heroic stand for the Confederate Flag in South Carolina.


"I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn't matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag -- you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole." 

There are legitimate arguments about flying the Confederate Flag, pro or con. But Huckabee pulled that line out of nowhere. It was not an issue before he dropped it into the campaign. Like the devil's brother, it came from Huckabee's own mind for a reason.

The US has always had far too many varieties of faith and non-faith for any religion to gain a majority. That is why Huckabee's faith-baiting didn't play in most of the country, and it is also why his support will not expand far beyond the Bible Belt.

Americans have a clear historical sense about racial injustice, but not about religious warfare. But most of the world has been torn by religious war, often for millenia. With the rise of violent Islamism we are seeing that old threat rising again.

From the beginning America had a mix of faiths. The US was so steeped in religious debates that no single faith could prevail.  That has been an enormous blessing for this country. Many immmigrants well into the 20th century fled the religious persecution that was daily fare in Europe until the breakdown of the Soviet Empire. Contrary to trendy secularist myth, the US Constitution never outlawed religion in the public square, but only the state-imposed establishment of a single faith like the Church of England.

To my mind, Huck's divisive use of religion reflects the dark side of democracy. For that reason it is nearly impossible for me to imagine voting for Huckabee. I do not vote for race-baiters or faith-baiters, gender-baiters and all the rest. Leave all that nonsense to the Left.

James Lewis blogs at dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/
Why is it that Americans have never elected an ordained minister, priest or rabbi as President? After all, the Founders were steeped in what has been called the "civil religion" of America.   Every time when our survival was at stake, from the War of 1812 to the attack on 9/11, the president in office appealed to the common elements of religious faith -- without excluding those who profess no faith. It's called religious tolerance, and it is a precious rarity in human history.

When Mike Huckabee dropped his "innocent" slam at Mormons to a NY Times reporter last month, he violated that tacit understanding in American politics. "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" he asked, knowing full well it would make headlines.    It was a bigoted slap at Mitt Romney, and we now know that Huck carried the Bible Belt anyway. Slamming Mormons might have helped him get votes, and in any case, it didn't hurt him. But it's bad news for America, because faith-baiting is no better than race-baiting. It is divisive and contemptuous of those who deserve our respect.

Notice the parallel to Huckabee's heroic stand for the Confederate Flag in South Carolina.


"I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn't matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag -- you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole." 

There are legitimate arguments about flying the Confederate Flag, pro or con. But Huckabee pulled that line out of nowhere. It was not an issue before he dropped it into the campaign. Like the devil's brother, it came from Huckabee's own mind for a reason.

The US has always had far too many varieties of faith and non-faith for any religion to gain a majority. That is why Huckabee's faith-baiting didn't play in most of the country, and it is also why his support will not expand far beyond the Bible Belt.

Americans have a clear historical sense about racial injustice, but not about religious warfare. But most of the world has been torn by religious war, often for millenia. With the rise of violent Islamism we are seeing that old threat rising again.

From the beginning America had a mix of faiths. The US was so steeped in religious debates that no single faith could prevail.  That has been an enormous blessing for this country. Many immmigrants well into the 20th century fled the religious persecution that was daily fare in Europe until the breakdown of the Soviet Empire. Contrary to trendy secularist myth, the US Constitution never outlawed religion in the public square, but only the state-imposed establishment of a single faith like the Church of England.

To my mind, Huck's divisive use of religion reflects the dark side of democracy. For that reason it is nearly impossible for me to imagine voting for Huckabee. I do not vote for race-baiters or faith-baiters, gender-baiters and all the rest. Leave all that nonsense to the Left.

James Lewis blogs at dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/