Mormon fear at the New York Times. The paper’s online “Room for Debate” section, which “invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues” on Monday asked “What Is It About Mormons?," inspired by the prospect of Mitt Romney winning the Republican nomination for president. The fact that the Senate has for the last five years been led by a Mormon, Democrat Harry Reid, has failed to trigger similar concerns at the Times. The Times also shows it feels free to shower at least some religions with derision and mockery.
Heading into the Florida primary, Mitt Romney appears to be in the lead. The candidate, whose results so far have been mixed, continues to be stymied by suspicions about his religion. But why are so many Americans uncomfortable with Mormonism?
A recent Pew survey found that Mormons are hard-working and civic-minded. Couldn’t the nation use some Mormon discipline: frugality, morality, self-improvement, worldliness? Indeed, with these traits, shouldn’t Americans be dying to vote for a Mormon?
According to three of the Times five chosen outsiders, Americans have good reason to fear Mormons, while the other two writers lamented prejudice against Mormons, saying it would hurt a Romney presidential run.
The subhead to “A Male-Dominated World,” by Sally Denton: “Given that Mitt Romney is a high church official and not just a member, voters are right to be circumspect.” Denton described Mormons in hostile terms: “Mormonism is a valid issue of concern not as a religious test for office, but for its most distinctive characteristic -- male authoritarianism. The controversial and secretive religion is a multibillion-dollar business empire ruled by a stern patriarchal gerontocracy.”
In “It May Look Good on Paper,” screenwriter Ian Williams was flippant: “While it's easy to be seduced by a church known for its practicality, its financial acumen and its commitment to both self-betterment and worldly outreach, I wouldn't buy the underwear just yet. Everything comes with a caveat....Mormons typically create their perfect world not by embracing the future, but by fetishizing the past....With no marriages outside the church, zero tolerance of homosexuality and very little coffee, the L.D.S. worldview would positively smother most Americans. It might be smothering most Mormons; Utah's antidepressant use makes it one of the most-medicated states in the country.”
In “There Is a Dark Side to Mormonism,” Jane Barnes likened Mormons to sheep: “Americans are impressed that Mormons fast one Sunday a month, and that the money these individuals save is voluntarily donated to the church’s widely respected rapid response system. After Hurricane Katrina, Mormon trucks were the first to arrive. But what was a force for good after Katrina also has a dark side. When it comes to the social agenda, the Mormon Church does not respect separation of church and state. It has used its mobilizing genius to pursue political goals, and individual Mormons have obeyed like sheep.”
Can you imagine the Times printing an op-ed likening devout Muslims to sheep, or mocking their religious rituals?
“Room for Debate” isn’t the only place the Times has felt free to casually stoke fears of the Mormon faith. The headline over Dwight Garner’s January 25 review of “The Mormon People” read “All-American Religion or Reason to Worry?” Again, would the Times ever suggest Islam was a "reason to worry"?
The same day, columnist Maureen Dowd published “Mitt’s Big Love,” a reference to the HBO show featuring a polygamous Mormon family. She dwelled on details from a recent Romney biography which described Mitt’s “polygamous Mormon ancestors living in Illinois, Utah and Mexico -- running from the law at times...”
In contrast, the Times readily leaps to the defense of Muslims against what it considers anti-Muslim fear-mongering. As the MRC’s Dan Gainor documented Tuesday, "The New York Times has written seven separate pieces -- including an op-ed and an editorial -- on the 'firestorm' over the movie 'The Third Jihad.' The editorial, headlined 'Hate Film,' criticized the New York Police Department’s 'decision to show a hate-filled film about Muslims to more than 1,400 city police officers.'"