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It's difficult to talk about Mitt Romney's religion. He belongs to one of the most misunderstood and historically persecuted religions in America. Mormons have been subjected to years of misleading hate campaigns, sometimes conducted by the same evangelical Protestant leaders who are now supporting Romney for President. Most of the criticisms I've seen are based on misconceptions.

It's probably best to leave the subject alone. But, then Romney had to say something silly like implying that Obama would take "God" off money and out of the pledge. That sounds like an open invitation from Romney to discuss his religious beliefs, and having been raised Mormon, I have some insights I could share.

Romney attacked Chicago teachers today claiming that, "teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children." I'm sure teachers will have plenty to say about that, so I'll focus on the topic of Mormonism and the labor movement.

The fact that Romney is a millionaire venture capitalist who enjoys laying off workers and shipping jobs overseas is probably reason enough for him to be anti-union. However, he may also be influenced by the long-standing hostility his church has toward the labor movement.

This essay from the Utah History Encyclopedia recounts the Mormon church's opposition to unions going back to the late 19th century, and later support of right-to-work laws. The concept of "free agency" is interpreted by Mormon leaders to mean that a person should be free to work at any job without being forced to join a union. In the 1940's an Apostle of the church represented the leadership's position by calling closed union shops "Satan's club and therefore destructive of human rights."

When Congress considered a bill to overturn state right-to-work laws in 1965, Church President David O. McKay sent a letter to all Mormon members of Congress. He publicly stated that "state right-to-work laws should be maintained inviolate."

Curiously, most Mormons don't interpret "free agency" in the same way on the issue of reproductive choice for women.

Modern Mormon leaders say less about politics publicly than did their counterparts in history, but as a former leading lay clergyman, Romney must be familiar with the church's attitude toward unions. The official stance of the church is reinforced by the Mormon culture of the Mountain West that's strongly anti-union. Whether based on his predatory business dealings or religious background, it's clear what sort of approach a Romney Presidency would take toward working people.

I noticed that Mitt Romney made his claim about taking God off money while campaigning with Pat Robertson. Robertson's 700 Club and Christian Broadcasting Network have long distributed misleading hate literature offensive to Mormons that call the religion a non-Christian cult. Romney spoke earlier this year at Liberty University where a course on Western religion describes Mormonism as a cult, along with Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists.

I've seen no mention of Romney correcting Pat Robertson or Liberty University about their anti-Mormon campaigns. I find it difficult to understand how a man can have so little self-respect that he fails to defend his own faith while embracing religious bigots. I guess that's part of running for President.

First posted at my blog, www.thereisaway.us

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