Coordinated Anti-Mormonism?

by Jose Medina

Mormonism, or the attacks on it, is in the news again this morning following a story in The Daily Beast that cites emails between a Christian radio executive and well-known religious-right activist David Lane.

The emails between Lane and Dick Bott of the Bott Radio Network seem to indicate the two were in cahoots to advance the anti-Mormon narrative that became controversial when Dallas pastor and Gov. Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress called the faith of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney a cult and non-Christian.

The story posits that because Lane a long history as an important Gov. Perry supporter, perhaps the coordinated efforts were not between Lane and Bott alone, but also with Gov. Perry’s presidential campaign.

We’re not quite ready to take that leap. As Sarah Posner points out in another story published today in Religion Dispatches, the evidence for coordination between Gov. Perry’s campaign and Lane on this issue is thin right now. But there are other reasons to be distressed by these emails.

Gov. Perry and Lane have been close associates for a long time. Lane is one of the organizers of the Texas Restoration Project, established to mobilize conservative pastors for political purposes. The group has periodically organized “pastors’ briefings” that feature Gov. Perry (six alone in 2005, just before the governor 2006 re-election campaign). Lane was also an organizer for The Response, Gov. Perry’s Aug. 6 prayer rally in Houston.

So Lane’s political tactics and divisive words reflect on the governor. Consider, for example, this excerpt from a Lane email:

“Thank you for what you are doing and for your leadership. Getting out Dr. Jeffress [sic] message, juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism, is very important in the larger scheme of things.”

We’ve been clear that faith should not be used as a political weapon. But that is exactly what Lane — who believes only conservative evangelical Christians (by his definition) like Gov. Perry should occupy the White House — is doing. Gov. Perry should publicly reject Lane’s tactics and repudiate his vicious and divisive words. He should do so not because some believe his campaign might have coordinated this attack with Lane.  And maybe not just because Gov. Perry and Lane are close associates. He should do so simply because it’s the right thing to do.

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