Voting for Mormons: another perspective

Blair Kelly claims to “strongly disagree” with my position on voting for “a Mormon,” and has written a full post explaining all the why’s and how’s. It’s a pretty good read, and I’d recommend it. My only quibble is that I’m not so sure we really disagree.

I would want to ask any candidate, Mormon or otherwise, some of the questions I posed above. What I’m arguing is that a person who claims to be Mormon is likely to answer them in an unsatisfying way… Therefore if you say you’re Mormon, chances are I won’t vote for you. I argue this is a perfectly legitimate position to take. But if you say you’re a Mormon and that the story about the origins of the Lamanites is clearly bunk, homosexuals deserve equal rights, Joseph Smith’s tales were very tall indeed, creationism is a load of garbage, women should have all the entitlements of men, and that you support stem cell research, then you will have purchased more of my attention…

That’s pretty much the distinction I was trying to make. If you’re judging somebody solely on the basis of the fact that they’re affiliated with the Mormon church, you’re really making a decision without adequate information. You can assume that any Mormon swears allegiance to all the things Mormonism is notorious for (and odds are you’d be right), but that’s an unfortunate handicap, not a reliable basis for decision-making. Still, it happens a lot, especially in politics, where necessity often forces us to make decisions based on inadequate information.

The point I want to make, though, is that we should never allow ourselves to become so complacent about the facts that we no longer care whether there is any more to the story than the fact that the candidate is a Mormon. If no other information is available, then we may not have a better basis for our decision-making, but we must always bear in mind that under these circumstances, we’re making a poorly-informed choice. Determining the candidate’s actual qualifications means asking for more than just his or her denominational affiliation. Asking the right questions may turn out to prove that initial prejudices were correct after all. But we still have to ask, as a matter of principle.