What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
The following is an op-ed I had published at The Daily Caller today.
This election cycle, like certain others in the past, has generated a significant amount of discussion regarding the intersection between politics and religion. While some consider the two to be irreconcilable and dangerous when mixed, others see a symbiotic relationship that can and should be allowed to flourish.
For example, Mitt Romney’s membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provided plenty of fodder for commentary. Pundits have questioned whether his faith is a help or hinderance, with opinions running the gamut. And while the talking heads discuss at great length the impact his Mormon religion will have in conservative, southern states where evangelical Christians dominate the political landscape, they tend to believe he has automatic and near-universal support from Utahns and his fellow Mormons nationwide.
As both a Mormon and Utah resident, I find this assumption to be misguided and disappointing.
A recent Pew survey notes that 74% of American Mormons identify with or lean towards the Republican Party and that 86% view Mitt Romney favorably. One should not conclude from this trend, however, that our faith or culture somehow suggests support either for the Republican Party or Mitt Romney. Actually, Mormons have a historical and doctrinal deluge of counsel encouraging them to support leaders who adhere to the Constitution and faithfully defend individual liberty.
A cursory review of Mitt Romney’s record and rhetoric reveal a candidate whose positions conflict with the Constitution. He supports wars of aggression with no congressional declaration, as required by the Constitution. He supports the failed and unconstitutional war on drugs. He supported TARP and other bailouts which likewise have no constitutional justification nor moral defense. He wants to save and “fix” federal welfare schemes which, though popular, are also not based on any constitutional authorization of power.
In addition to being taught to uphold the Constitution, members of the LDS Church enjoy a rich theology which in many ways supports a libertarian political philosophy over a conservative or liberal one. The Church’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith, once remarked that he governed so many people so well because “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” A later prophet, David O. McKay, said that “A man may act as his conscience dictates so long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others.” Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have said it any better. Our scriptures decry preventive, aggressive warfare and high taxation. One such scripture states that government must “secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”
These and a host of other scriptures and historical examples from our church suggest that, to be in harmony with our faith, we must support policies and politicians that are libertarian in nature. While the Bible offers some support for libertarianism, the additional scripture and teachings found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offer a tidal wave of supporting statements in comparison. Libertarianism will have an increasingly prominent role in the political discussion between Mormons as the years progress.
Accordingly, I believe that a sincere review of our doctrine and history in the LDS Church would lead an individual to support not Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, but the only candidate who has consistently shown a commitment to upholding the Constitution and defending individual liberty: Ron Paul. It is perhaps perplexing to suggest that Mormons should vote for Paul, a Baptist, but as Romney himself once said: “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” Mormons should not simply vote for a fellow Mormon, but for a candidate who supports the Constitution and freedom, regardless of that person’s religion.
Members of the LDS Church believe the Constitution to be, as Joseph Smith said, a “heavenly banner” which was “founded in the wisdom of God.” Another leader of our Church, J. Reuben Clark, once stated that “the distortion of any fundamental principle of our constitutional government would… do violence to my religion.” A more recent leader, Ezra Taft Benson, declared himself to be a libertarian and constitutionalist. Our faith is replete with references that, when collectively considered, suggest support for a strict constitutional and libertarian view point. Mormons should therefore consider voting not necessarily for their fellow Church member, but for a candidate whose record most closely matches their own doctrine. That candidate is Ron Paul.