The Red Herring of Article Six

U.S. Constitution on FlagResponding to those who are not comfortable with the idea of a Mormon becoming president in 2008, supporters of Mitt Romney have, on numerous occasions, cited Article Six of the United States Constitution. This three-paragraph Article states in part that,

“…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

First of all, this clause has been historically understood to apply to federal employees and either elected or appointed political officials. In other words, the clause prohibits the Federal Government from forcing someone to have certain religious beliefs in order to run for public office or serve in any government capacity. For Romney supporters to appeal to Article Six is a logical fallacy of the worst kind. Known as a red herring, it attempts to prove a point by bringing up an argument that has no relevance. Of all the reasons being raised as to why the United States should not have a Mormon president, I don’t know of anybody who is arguing that Mitt Romney should not be allowed to run for the presidency because of his religious convictions.

Let this be perfectly clear, Article Six has nothing whatsoever to do with the personal preference of voters. A legal citizen of the United States has every right to vote for whomever he/she chooses. This freedom is so wide open you can even vote for a dead person if you wish. Don’t believe me? Google “dead man wins election” and see for yourself.

If a person likes Romney’s Mormon worldview, then by all means they should exercise that right and vote for him. Those who disagree should (and do) have the same right. Discrimination is not always a bad thing. In fact, the ballot is one of the few places left where an American can exercise discrimination to their heart’s content without fear of reprisal and Article Six does not infringe on that right whatsoever. Quite frankly, anyone who uses Article Six as a means to intimidate or sway a voter might want to consider retaking Civics 101.

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16 Responses to The Red Herring of Article Six

  1. Pingback: Today’s Reading List - June 14, 2007

  2. john andrew says:

    Great article. That is basically what I told my good Mormon friend when she told me it was wrong for me to have reservations about voting for Romney. However, I’m not too surprised by her use of this flawed logic. Usually her claims against orthodox Christianity go something like this. “blaw, blaw, blaw, straw man, straw man, therefor your wrong, and I’m right.”

  3. “blaw, blaw, blaw, straw man, straw man, therefore your wrong, and I’m right.”

    Most people don’t know it, but McKeever’s Mormonism 101 has a chapter entitled, “How to response to a Mormon who says, ‘blaw, blaw, blaw'”. FAIR and FARMS stand by the rhetorical and testimonial power of the phrase. However, recently, when asked about the phrase, “blaw blaw blaw”, Gordon B. Hinckley answered, “I don’t know that we teach that.” Out of respect, I prefer not to address the issue, as it is a private and sacred matter that ought not to be discussed in public.

  4. Todd Wood says:

    Bill, thanks on the new setup for this blog.

    The layout is nicer. And a lot more user friendly for a google account dummie like me.


  5. Exactly. Discrimination is not always a bad thing. I hope mormons start to think about this.

    Utah has given all of its electoral votes to Bush twice. Utah has consistently given Bush the highest approval ratings in the country in several major polls. Not only are Mormons supporting an evangelical president, they’re leading the country in their support. And it is very clear that Bush is quintessentially evangelical. The 2004 exit polls showed 23% of voters called themselves evangelical Christians. Of which 78% voted for Bush.

    While this might make mormons feel they’ve been treated unfairly, or that this happily proves Mormons are more tolerant of other faiths and can find commonality when others can’t. And all of this might be true, but the best thing for Mormons to do in this situation is to follow the Evangelical lead. Discriminate.

    You’ve seen the horrors of Iraq, an unjustified, costly, mismanaged, corrupt war. You’ve seen the disintegration of our country’s technological and scientific edge in the world. You’ve seen our fiscal irresponsibility. If anyone should have concerns about what church produces the worst candidate its Mormons toward evangelicals.

  6. I think you’re misunderstanding the context. A lot of people are raising Article VI worries about Romney, because they think if a Mormon is president then he’ll have to do whatever the Mormon hierarchy tells him to do. Romney supporters, along with Romney, have insisted that Romney is his own man and will not be following orders from the Mormon hierarchy. The Romney camp’s response is that Article VI does not prohibit a Mormon president. Rather, those who want to prohibit a Mormon president are the ones who are violating Article VI.

  7. Bill, a recent public forum letter to the Salt Lake Tribune expressed some of your same points.

  8. John C. says:

    Um, telling the people that you are discriminating against that your discrimination really isn’t a bad thing is not the way to win converts or friends. It is poor justification for discrimination, too. Sure it isn’t always a bad thing, but you need to explain why it isn’t a bad thing in this case. In effect, you are arguing that an understood rule that a black man should never be elected to the White House because he is icky is to be considered within the bounds of the Constitution (which, arguably is the case (at least in the document itself (3/5ths and all that))). Certainly you have right to find Mormons icky, as you clearly do, but to argue that this sense of ickiness should bar them from public office (or should justify the masses in barring them from public office) seems to me to be wrong-headed. Then again, I don’t find Mormons icky.

  9. John C., I’m certainly not saying Mormons are “icky.” The color of a man’s skin is something innate and cannot be changed. Romney’s Mormonism is an ideology that carries with it a worldview that can easily affect his policy-making decisions. As such it needs to be scrutinized.

  10. John C. says:

    Fine, Bill. What exactly about Romney’s worldview, as affected by his Mormonism, do you find disturbing?

  11. John C. for me that question states the problem. We don’t know because he refuses to tell us. As I have often stated, Romney is just like his church when it comes to giving vague answers. I will say this, I tend to question anyone who holds to a subjective epistemology like that of Mormonism.

    Does Romney believe the Book of Abraham is really what Smith says? If so, what criteria did he use to come to that conclusion? Smith’s word, or evidence that disproves the findings of qualified Egypotologists?

    Did he conclude the Book of Mormon is really an ancient text merely by following “Moroni’s” directive in Moroni 10:4?

    Did he support his church when Blacks could not hold the priesthood? If so, on what grounds? If not, did he raise any objections?

    Does he agree with his church that those who challenge the LDS faith should be labeled hateful and bigoted? (Sorry, I guess he kind of already answered that one when Sharpton made his comment.)

    Will he protect his church from scruntiny by making tough religious questions a hate crime?

    Does he believe like many Mormons that information that makes him feel bad, is probably not true?

    If, when he said “polygamy was awful,” he merely meant “difficult,” what will he do if same sex marriage becomes law and the polygamists are demanding equal protection under the law?

    These are just a few of my curiosities. How he answers the above will tend to give me an idea of how he will make decisions in the future.

  12. John C. says:

    Do you believe that these questions (or religiously appropriate ones) should be leveled at Catholics, Presbyterians, or Buddhists? I am just curious as to whether you believe that all religious adherents should be subject to the same scrutiny. After all, don’t all religions have aspects that others find objectionable.

    Also, I can tell you how I hope Romney would answer those questions:
    1. I accept it as the word of God just as I accept all the standard canonized works of my faith.
    2. I prayed about the Book of Mormon and I believe that it is the word of God.
    3. I continued to attend church and, like the leaders of the church, I prayed that the ban would soon end. (Actually, I believe that he has publically spoken on the ban, but I’m not particularly interested in looking it up).
    4. Only if they are actually being hateful and bigoted.
    5. What kind of stupid, paranoid question is that? That’s just dumb. We are not the Scientologists. No one has proposed this; no one supports this. Really people, that is just a stupid question.
    6. As past performance indicates, I will try to keep same-sex marriage from becoming law. I am clearly not interested in using it as a test case to legalize polygamy. The church no longer teaches polygamy in mortality, actively teaches against the practice, tries to help people out of the practice and there is no indication that it ever intends to return to it.

    I don’t know what he would actually say, of course.

  13. I am just curious as to whether you believe that all religious adherents should be subject to the same scrutiny. After all, don’t all religions have aspects that others find objectionable.

    I have no problem at all with anybody questioning another’s ideology.

    You think my question about hate crimes is stupid? Mormons often play the hate card when presented with tough questions. The Mormon Church has also done this. I’m not at all saying Romney would wish to eliminate tough religious discourse aimed only at the LDS Church; but let’s be serious, our culture is quickly heading towards a mindset that strong religious disagreement is akin to hate speech. Hate speech can only be prosecuted if it is considered a “hate crime.” Calling Sharpton a bigot for his comment didn’t set well with me, nor did it set well with many other people who cherish our First Amendment. Slippery slopes tend to be, well, slippery.

    BTW, your “answers” to my questions tend to support what I’ve been saying about subjective epistemology.

  14. John C. says:

    First of all, those are my actual answers. Please don’t put them in quotes. I’ll own up to them.

    I don’t know what you have been saying about subjective epistemology, so I can’t answer that. All I can do is share my experience and how my experience has affected my relationship with God as I understand it. Can you do more?

    Also, I am interested in how you care to define bigotry. You brought up “hate crimes.” I don’t know what you mean by tough questions: there are questions like, “How would it affect your testimony if there was undeniable proof that Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre?” Such a question is reasonable, I think, and not hateful. Then there are questions like: “So, have you stopped beating your wife yet?” I believe that your “hate crime” question is of the latter category.

    In any case, I would tend to regard the blanket dismissal of the heartfelt beliefs of millions of people as being inferior or insincere a form of religious bigotry. I try to avoid it in myself and I hope to rarely encouter it. Let me give a non-Sharpton bigoted comment as an example:
    “I’ve come to the conclusion that submitting to living priesthood authority leadership is ultimately more important to Mormons than knowing and submitting to the truth.”
    Aaron Shafavoloff (sp?) said this on another thread on this website today. He may as well have called all Mormons “lying liars who lie.” Has Aaron done a survey of all Mormons where we rate our devotion to truth as opposed to our devotion to leadership? Is Aaron doing anything other than airing out his prejudices regarding Mormonism?

    Even Eric, who seems relatively level-headed, assumed that, because I was Mormon, I really didn’t want to understand how he read scripture. You are all assume that I am the enemy (and perhaps I am), but you don’t even know me. That is a form of bigotry.

    I don’t pretend to be without prejudices. I have them. But I am capable of trying to set them aside.

  15. Interested says:

    I’ve enjoyed this site because it seemed a civil and intelligent discussion of mormonism as well as christianity. Seems like it is going a bit downhill.

  16. Robert says:

    I think it’s valid to want to know a mans beliefs if we are going to be led by him. The plain truth is is that Mitt Romney’s worldview is vastly different than mine; being a Christian. (I won’t list the differences between the Mormon worldview and the Christian worldview, I’d cramp up)
    The other thing to note is that if we elect Romney, then in some way, we “legitimatize” Mormon theology to the general public. It gains some credibility with the general public based on his office. I also think that he’d use his office to “help” Mormon beliefs become more “mainstream” as in “we are just another sect of Christianity” That alone is worth not voting for him. Protecting the integrity of the gospel is that important to me.
    That, and his wishy washy stance on abortion, are the reasons I’d not vote for him.

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