Trump’s poor Mormon pitch

(RNS) Where others displayed an awareness of Mormon religious identity and concerns, his Deseret News column shows the opposite. Grading on a curve, I give it a C.

Deseret News
Deseret News

Deseret News

Following in the footsteps of Libertarian Gary Johnson and Democrat Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has published a column in the Deseret News sharing his views with the LDS Church-owned newspaper’s readers.

Grading on a curve, I give it a C.

Where the two other columns direct themselves to the local audience, Trump’s is a generic pitch that could have been written for any paper in the land. Where the others show an awareness of Mormon religious identity and concerns, his shows the opposite.

The column’s wandering discussion of religion gets off on the wrong foot with a mangled cliché: “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have tried to undermine our religious liberties on the altar of political correctness.”

An altar is for sacrificing, not undermining, yo.

It then proceeds to assert that Obama and Clinton “have challenged the rights of businesses and religious institutions to speak openly about their faith.”

How so? If this is supposed to refer to the Administration’s opposition to those seeking exemption from the Obamacare contraception mandate and the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, then it’s not about speaking.

What follows is a denunciation of Trump’s favorite sin against religious liberty  — the so-called “Johnson Amendment” that bars non-profits from participating in political campaigns. The column states that the law was passed “to threaten pastors with the loss of their church’s tax exempt status if they opposed or supported a candidate for election or re-election from the pulpit.”

Actually, it wasn’t. The law was passed because a secular non-profit distributed material designed to help Lyndon Johnson’s opponent in his 1954 Senate reelection campaign. As for pastoral opposition or support in political campaigns, not only do Mormons not have “pastors” but no one in Utah worries about the inability of the LDS Church to influence electoral outcomes — just ask Orrin Hatch.

Trump concludes by pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices “who respect the right of all Americans to practice their religion not just in the privacy of their homes, but in the public square, in their professions and in the conduct of their businesses.”

Unlike Gary Johnson, he says nothing about the “Utah Compromise” balancing religious rights with the civil rights of LGBT persons. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has nothing to say about the religious rights of minority faiths.

If only the thrice-married New Yorker had mentioned the 2013 decision by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups declaring Utah’s anti-polygamy law to be a violation of the religious rights of fundamentalist Utahans.

For that I’d have given him an A.

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