Bill Keller of the New York Times announced that the Times is planning to ask GOP candidates for president specific questions on how their religion or religious beliefs would affect their actions as president. (Read) I think this is a good idea, particularly for Mitt Romney, who has often looked like a deer in the headlights when asked questions about certain doctrines of the LDS Church.
I just finished reading, for the second time, a yet-to-be published biography of early Mormon leader Parley P. Pratt, and I’m amazed at how conventional my church has become 180 years later. The questions that Mitt dodges would have been eagerly answered by Mr. Pratt.
Here are some of the questions that will be asked of all candidates by the Times:
•Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or a “Judeo-Christian nation?” and what does that mean in practice?
•Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?
•What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
More questions from the Times can be found here. Specific questions for Romney and Jon Huntsman are as follows:
For Governor Mitt Romney:
1. In your 2007 speech on religion, you said that “freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Where does that leave unbelievers, in your view?
2. This year, as in the 2008 election, polls show that there is some resistance to voting for a Mormon — including among some evangelical Christians, who have been taught that the Mormon church is a “cult.” Do you sense that this prejudice is still a factor in the campaign? If so, how do you address it?
3. Was your religion a factor in your decision to oppose gay marriage and civil unions?
4. Do you believe that your upbringing in the Mormon faith provided you with some qualities that enhance your abilities as a political leader?
For Jon Huntsman:
1. Though you were reared Mormon, you have described yourself as “not overly religious.” I can imagine that is doubly unhelpful in winning the votes of evangelical Christians who figure so heavily in the Republican primary season: on the one hand, many of them have been taught that the Mormon church is a “cult”; on the other, many of them are looking for a candidate they regard as godly. How do you persuade conservative evangelicals to vote for you?
2. If not religion, what do you use as your guide in deciding what is right and what is wrong?
There are also tough questions for candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, which include inquiries into their associations with some bigoted preachers and Bachmann’s endorsement of a biography of Robert E. Lee by a sympathizer of the slave-holding South in the Civil War.