In a week, Mitt Romney will speak at the Value Voters Summit in Washington just before Bryan Fischer of American Family Association, one of the summit’s sponsoring organizations. Fischer’s anti-Mormonism is well known, and he’s entitled to it, but he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying that the First Amendment was only intended to protect the free exercise rights of Christians–that is, Romney shouldn’t allow Fischer to get away it.
Here’s what Fischer said recently:
My argument all along has been that the purpose of the First
Amendment is to protect the free exercise of the Christian religion.
Mormonism is not an orthodox Christian faith. It’s just is not. They
have a different Gospel, they have a completely different definition of
who Christ is and so forth, I mean, the list could be multiplied
endlessly. And it was very clear that the Founding
Fathers did not intend to preserve automatically religious liberty for
non-Christian faiths, so when Mormonism came along, they practiced
polygamy, they believed in polygamy, just like Muslims do today.
I suggest that Romney quote this, and then quote from George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud
themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and
liberal policy–a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty
of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the
indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of
their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the
United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no
assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should
demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their
And he ought to go on to call his audience to embrace this value–and to insist that it extends to Muslims just as it does to everyone else. He might even quote from the first published novel about Mormonism, The Mormoness (1853), where the non-Mormon author, a Baptist minister named John Russell, expresses indignation that American institutions, “which guarantee the freedom of religion to the Jew, the Mahometan, the Pagan, and even to the Atheist, afforded no protection to the Mormon.”