A voter questioned Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his Mormon faith during a town hall style meeting in Wisconsin on Monday.
The questioner asked Romney whether he agreed with a passage from the Book of Mormon that describes a cursing on people with a “skin of blackness.” Romney’s staff took away the microphone before the man could read the passage.
“I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view, but if you have a question I’ll be happy to answer your question,” Romney said.
The questioner then asked whether Romney thought it was a sin for interracial couples to have children.
“No. Next question,” Romney responded curtly.
The Associated Press reported that exchange and reported that the questioner was citing verses from Nephi in the Book of Mormon which describes a cursing of people with a “skin of blackness.”
AP reported: “The verse is often cited by critics who accuse the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or racism and consider Mormon teachings heretical. Some Mormons may have also have heard the verses in their community as an explanation of why men of African descent had been banned from the church’s priesthood until 1978.”
Church leaders have said that interpretation is inaccurate. The church recently issued a statement from its offices in Utah denouncing racism and waning against what it called speculation about the origin of the prohibition.
“For a time in the church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent,’ the church said. “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago.”
When Barack Obama was running to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 he had to address questions raised by conservative commentators on whether he was a Muslim and on his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In fact because of controversial sermons made by Rev. Wright, Obama made a historic speech on race in Philadelphia where he made it clear that his former pastor did not represent his views on politics and race.
Even as president questions on Obama’s faith remains an issue.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recently failed to correct a voter who during a question and answer session called Obama a Muslim. Similar statements had been made by voters during Rick Santorum’s campaign stops.
Gingrich said that he accepts Obama is a Christian but a Christian whose policies “apologizes to Muslim extremist while they’re killing Americans at the same time that he’s waging war against the Catholic Church and against every right-to-life institution in this country.”
If Republican presidential candidates and their supporters can address the issue of Obama and his faith, why shouldn’t Romney address questions about his faith and where he stands on racial and other social issues.
A precedent has already been set.
After all Romney isn’t simply a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he has served as a volunteer pastor and has given the church more than $4 million in the past five years.
There is no reason why Romney, a former Mormon leader, should not answer questions on his faith when by his own acknowledgment it is so central to his character.