Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Can a Mormon be president? |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Can a Mormon be president?

What should be a perfect example of a common rhetorical question (envision what a bear does in the woods), thanks to the religious right, has now become an actual query sadly worthy of national discussion.

But before you go off all willy-nilly and start salivating about it being “part of God’s plan” (yep, that’ll sell to the Fox demographic), or condemning me to one of a few thousand different versions of Hades, realize that I think the question itself is complete nonsense.

No one should have to prove, or disprove, any religious or nonreligious aspect of their lives before running for public office. In fact, it’s against the law, according to the U.S. Constitution.

We don’t prosecute freedom of speech. We allow freedom of – and from – the practice of using creative nonsense to explain ignorance, no matter how nonsensical it might be.

As the saying goes, “Science flies you to Mars, and religion flies you into buildings.” This ever-present disease of ignorance is certainly not limited to one political party or religion. And that is the main reason we, as a nation, do not hold it, or a lack of it, as a criteria to hold public office.

Think of it this way: Electing a Mormon to the world’s most powerful political office would dramatically raise awareness and, quite possibly, promote the positives of Mormonism, right?

But wouldn’t the exact same hold true for Muslimism (if there is such a word), or Scientologism, Catholicism, atheism or the Church of the Invisible Pink Unicornism?

Of course it would, and that is why (at least on paper, or 225-year-old parchment) we make it illegal to use such an absurd litmus test for public office.

And it’s also one reason I was ecstatic to hear Vice President Joe Biden say to the nation that he refuses to impose his beliefs upon others, as opposed to Paul Ryan, who makes it perfectly clear he wishes to do the exact opposite.

Sure, it’s obvious that Biden was simply playing to his base by saying what he knows they want to hear, and of course Ryan was doing the same thing. But that doesn’t change the fact that he said it, and as we all know, most voters are too dense to listen, much less understand, between the lines.

Superficial sound bites are apparently what make our political system perform so seamlessly, especially during election season.

Last Friday, the cult led by Billy Graham had “Mormonism” removed from his list of cults (which are apparently religions without enough followers) in an obvious attempt to thwart evil, people-loving liberals (as opposed to God-fearing conservatives) from possibly winning an election.

Those who refuse to see such shallowness based upon a cartoonishly fragile faith as anything other than a desperate act to manipulate voters deserve nothing but contempt from those with the ability to think for themselves.

Either way, attempting to pigeonhole candidates by what version of supernatural magic they follow makes about as much sense as insisting upon determining a pilot’s pious preference before boarding an airplane.

When it comes to reality, no one does.

Nor should it matter at election time.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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