In the south, it is not a secret that evangelical Christians view Mormonism with a wary eye. According to a 2007 survey by the Pew Center, 57 percent of voters identifying themselves as Christians don't think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as being a part of traditional Christendom. Consequently, logic suggests they might not vote for a person of that faith.Moore also reminds us that the emphasis on anti-Mormon agitation by Republicans and conservative Protestants the last several years intensifies the significance of religion in Republican politics: "The argument that a person's faith ought not to play a role in the debate in the public square falls apart if a Muslim candidate enters the race; consequently, it is of relevance to the Republicans when they look to their nominee".
And Rick Perry is not going to ignore those numbers or that logic. The reason the Texas governor informally launched his campaign at a gigantic prayer rally with evangelical southern Christians was to let all of them know that he came from their tribe. He might as well have been telling them, "Vote for me. I'm not a Mormon," which, in a fairly obvious manner, is exactly what he accomplished. Perry did not denounce Mitt Romney's religious belief system but he knew there were others to do that important political work.
Moore doesn't claim to have "smoking gun" proof of Perry's involvement in that aspect of his campaign. But I agree that it's a safe assumption. Perry would clearly distance himself and tell his supporters to knock it off if he weren't in approval of it. On the other hand, Sarah Posner looks critically at a claim of a more direct link in The David Lane Effect Religion Dispatches 10/17/2011, and finds it wanting. But she's looking very specifically at the anti-Mormon messaging. She agrees that, with or without explicit anti-Mormonism, the Perry campaign is pushing hard on the idea that only a conservative Protestant Christian is fit to be President:
Yes, the anti-Mormonism is front and center [in the Republican Party]. But the problem with these Christian right players backing Perry is not just their anti-Mormonism, it's their demand that evangelicalism is a pre-requisite for the White House. That's the clear message the Perry campaign has authorized.Tags: christian right, republican party, rick perry, sarah posner