| I'm really getting tired of hearing from Christian radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt and others how if one votes against Romney simply because he's LDS, then that person is a "bigot." Similarly, I'm also tired of hearing, "We are not electing a pastor-in-chief, but a commander-in-chief."
First, suppose there is another candidate H who holds roughly identical moral and political values with R. Both are roughly identical in terms of experience and integrity, but H differs from R in that the former holds to the majority's theological values. Under such a scenario, it does not seem that one is a bigot if he or she votes for H on the basis of shared theological values.
Second, suppose there's a dear sweet grandma who doesn't follow politics much. She could never hold her own politically with the likes of Hewitt. Yet she loves the Lord, and wants someone in office who will not only be an individual of integrity (not necessarily a pastor, although that would be nice), but someone who will trust her Lord to lead this nation. She holds this on the basis of good reasons, not on the basis of mere preference. This is a value she does not share with Mormons, since she knows that Mormons follow an idolatrous, blasphemous, and imaginary god. For her, this value is fundamental for all other values. Thus, she refuses to vote for Romney. There is no hatred on her part toward Romney or others who are not of her faith. She would rather have someone in office, who is not simply a "person of faith," but a "person of the Christian faith."
Does that entail she's a bigot? For someone to claim that it does, then it seems just as fair to call that individual a bigot against God-fearing folk who want their leaders to follow and trust the same God they do. Hewitt, et.al need to be more careful when throwing the "bigot" card out. If it merely means an "intolerant individual," then obviously what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as it were, and Hewitt, et.al are bigots themselves.
But who wants to be known as a "bigot" anyway? The real problem here is that this term is smuggling in modern notions of "intolerance." As such, the terms mean wrongly being against something when everything should be accepted (except of course those who are against something the other group does not like). This is strictly applied to religious beliefs, which are automatically ruled out from political discussion. What matters here is if all the other values are the same. Thus, in the political realm, all religious views are equally acceptable. Of course on the other hand, traditional notions of "intolerance" are acceptable when these other non-religious values are not the same. Here the term means rightly being against something and not everything can or should be accepted. So as a result of this language, Hewitt, et.al have created a radical ad hoc separation between religion and politics.
The "separation of church and state" is something entirely different. It simply means that the state cannot play favorites politically and establish a state-run Church. The state must also not inhibit the free exercise of religion by individuals in or out of the government.
What Hewitt, et.al are claiming is that one’s religious beliefs should have no bearing as a criterion for deciding who should be voted into office. So long as the candidate shares our other (conservative) values, then what God is worshipped is irrelevant. But on my view, it is insufficient to scare people into this Hewitt position by playing the "bigot" card. Some things rightly deserve intolerance, and being intolerant of voting someone in office with a false god seems at least prima facie like one of those things.
For a discussion on more problems with Hewitt's position, click HERE.
R. M. S.
President, Courageous Christians United