Open Thread: Romneyfail

Believers and skeptics alike, I’d like to hear from you. Here’s the question:

Has Romney’s seven year failed pursuit of the white house been good or bad for the public image, visibility, and viability of the LDS Church? Is Mormonism seen as less peculiar or weirder than ever?

Keep in mind that I am inviting personal opinions. There will be many different viewpoints. Arguing will be less productive to this exercise than simply laying out your opinion and seeing what others have to say.

GOP: Team Rape!

I recently received an e-mail from a reader. The author didn’t specify whether or not they wished their identity to be known, so I have not included it here. If the author wishes, that person may choose to identify themselves in the comments. Here is the question:

I know you are outside the US, but one of the subjects that has been glossed over in the Presidential race is Romney’s view on rape. He states that he allows for abortion in the case of rape or incest, but has refused to illuminate the particulars, especially after Todd Aiken’s outrageous comments re:”legitimate rape”.

From my own experience in the mormondum, the church has very strict guidelines given to the bishopric and stake presidents as to what constitutes legitimate rape. The victim has to fight and has to scream loud enough to be heard. In my case, I asked (during my church court “hearing”) what if you are tied up? gagged? what if they threaten your toddler daughter sleeping in the next room?

None of that applied. And it was noted by the bishops first counselor that had I been righteous, the Lord would have taken me (I would have died) before the assault. Also, in the State of Utah, even if convicted, in the case of incest the judge has the right to waive jail time for the convicted rapist.

I believe this is a legitimate line of inquiry to ascertain Romney’s views on the subject. But I can’t get anyone to be more pointed in asking this question. Any thoughts on a post on this?

Establishing a legitimate line of inquiry on any issue related to Governor Flip-Flop is difficult due to general lack of consistency, but let’s do our best to establish the larger context here. A quick search on YouTube yielded this hall of shame of rape quotes:

These comments are so horrible that only comedy can make sense of them:

A full timeline of Republican RapeGate 2012 would fill five blog posts, so I’ve tried to pick out the most prominent events from the War on Women that have to do with rape. I hope that I can use these events to string together a narrative on why Republicans have stepped in it over and over again when it comes to rape.

January 28 – Redefining Rape

Mother Jones reports on the Republican plan to decriminalise non-forcible rape. Under proposed legislation, rape would only be really rape in cases where women struggled, screamed, or attempted to fight off their attacker. Pregnancies resulting from assaults where a woman was unable to put up a fight due to being frightened, coerced, too young, incapacitated, or disabled would no longer be considered “rape” and would not be eligible for most forms of financial assistance for an abortion.

Why would Republicans take this position?

It’s in the Bible. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 makes it clear that if a woman has sex with a man in a location where others might be able to hear her cries for help, she wasn’t raped and should be stoned to death as an adulterer. Verses 25 and 26 make it clear that if a woman is raped in a location where nobody could have heard her scream out, then only the rapist should be killed and the woman should be spared.

This is where the concept of “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” come from. Jews and Christians who actually read the Old Testament and understand it will naturally arrive at this conclusion. Let’s repeat that: The Bible specifies that rape isn’t rape unless a woman cries out for help. Staying silent for any reason — roofies, a gun to the head, or the threat of violence to people in the next room — means it isn’t really rape.

February 16 – State Sponsored Penetration

Slate reports on a proposed Virginia law that would require women seeking abortions to receive a medically unnecessary vaginal probe whether they wanted it or not, leaving them with the choice of being sexually assaulted by their doctor or carrying an unwanted fetus to term.

Why would Virginia Republicans do this?

The Bible can shed some light once again. Women are described quite clearly as property to be managed by men. They are listed behind cattle in many cases describing property distribution, and abduction and rape was considered a legitimate means of securing a wife. Exodus 21, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20, Deuteronomy 21, Deuteronomy 22, 2 Samuel 12, Judges 5, and Judges 21 are just a few very clear examples of the status of women in the sight of Yahweh. Opposition to abortion is almost exclusively based on biblical-based belief. Is it surprising that people who utilise this book for their moral compass would merely reflect the callous misogyny found in its pages? These men don’t hate women. They just don’t know how to love them as full human beings.

March 6 – Women are Livestock

Georgia State Representative Terry England compares women to chickens, cows, and pigs giving birth while arguing against an exception to Georgia’s strict abortion laws that would allow women with non-viable fetuses to obtain abortions rather than carry them to term, only to result in stillbirth or instant death of the baby. The bill later passes.

Why would Republicans in Georgia do this?

Women having the status of livestock is in the Bible. Noticing a trend yet, anyone? The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) treats a woman as exactly the same as a man’s other pieces of property: his house, his servants, his ox, his donkey, or any other personal effects. Including his wife.

April 5 – Women are Caterpillars

GOP Chairman Reince Priebus dismisses the idea of a Republican War on Women as fictional as a “war on caterpillars.”

Why would the leader of the Republican Party say this?

We may live in a modern world where Christians heavily cherry-pick from their scripture, but there are still consequences to reading a sloppy text written by nomadic warlords and strung together by politicians thousands of years later. In the Bible, men are the prophets, lawmakers, priests, and kings. God is male and so is his son. Women are auxiliary substances to maleness. They are on the same level as real estate, livestock, and household goods. Is it really that surprising that someone who chooses the Bible as his ultimate moral guide would be influenced by its lack of serious treatment of women as full human beings?

August 19 – Legitimate Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy

Senate candidate Todd Akin insists that “legitimate rape” cannot result in pregnancy. This implies that the 30,000+ women every year who conceive after rape must have enjoyed the attack and therefore can’t complain about the government forcing them to bear their attacker’s child.

Why would a Republican Senate Candidate say this?

This goes right back to Deuteronomy 22, where rape isn’t rape unless it’s physically forcible and the woman screams for help. Anything else, according to the Bible, isn’t really rape.

August 20 – Romney Condemns Akin

Mitt Romney calls Akin’s words “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.” Romney, Ryan, and other GOP higher-ups call for Akin to resign from the race, which he refuses to do.

Why would the Republican Presidential Candidate say this?

At the time I hoped it was because Romney, a former pro-choice candidate, was at least reasonable enough to see that comments like this are horribly offensive and political cyanide. Also, being Mormon rather than Catholic or mainstream Christian, he’s able to adhere to official LDS policy of allowing abortion in cases of rape. The fact that this reaction may have been part of an effort to get a more palatable Republican candidate in the Missouri senate race did come to my mind but I could not be sure.

Until . . .

October 23 – Rape Pregnancy is a gift from God

On October 23, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana expressed his belief that even when conception occurs as the result of rape, it is a “Gift from God” and no abortion should be permitted. Romney, who the previous day had endorsed Mourdock with the only television commercial he has ever recorded for a fellow candidate for office, sends an aide to release a mild statement saying that he does not share Mourdock’s position, but continues to support him for office.

Why would Romney do this?

I don’t think Mitt Romney cares much about the issue of rape at all. When it was politically convenient, he spoke out against Akin. This allowed him to appear chivalrous and to help his party by trying to get rid of a toxic candidate and find a replacement before the ballot deadline. In Mourdock’s case it’s too late. Pulling support for Mourdock this late in the season would mean automatic victory for the Democrats. As usual for the wannabe CEO-in-Chief, politics take precedent over principle. Achieving the goal of the White House and Republican control of the Senate as well as the House is far more important than defending the rights of women to the GOP. That’s the business they are in. Their goal is power, not compassion. Let’s not be sentimental or hand-wringing about that reality.

So What Now?

Perhaps the GOP will continue to add to RapeGate, but hopefully they’ll adhere to the wisdom of Steven Colbert in this case.

As far as Romney goes, I believe that if elected he would continue along the Republican Party’s path of strict Biblical literalism when it comes to legislating the status of women. Romney isn’t quite the same as a Christian for the purposes of this discussion, as he adheres to additional authorities like the Book of Mormon and the President of LDS, inc. Mormonism lacks the clear-cut Canon Law that Paul Ryan can adhere to, making it harder to know exactly what he would believe. The closest thing that the organisation has is the Church Handbook of Instructions. The boring half has been made public on LDS.org, but the really good secret stuff is periodically leaked online. The most recent edition of CHI Book One contains some pretty revealing information.

Nowhere in the Church Handbook of Instructions are Priesthood authorities told that they should immediately inform civil authorities when they learn of a crime. The book simply tells them when formal versus informal religious discipline should be imposed.

In section 6.7.3 of CHI Volume one, murder and incest are mentioned. Bishops and Stake Presidents are told how to contact internal LDS Authorities regarding spiritual discipline. Nothing is mentioned about contacting police. Later on the same page, Priesthood leaders are informed that people identified as predators must have a disciplinary hearing. Once again, there is no mention of alerting proper authorities.

Section 6.10.3 informs Mormon leaders that “aggrieved victims” should be counseled internally by the Church’s own helpline. “Great care must be taken,” the passage reads, “to avoid causing further trauma, especially to a victim of physical or sexual abuse.” Ironically, the Church’s prime policy document says nothing about reporting abuse to doctors, law enforcement, or professional services for abuse victims — which greatly increases the chances of creating further trauma.

The Church Handbook of Instructions is a treasure trove of bizarre and shocking policies, but what I’ve listed here should present a broad enough picture of what the problem is when it comes to Alpha Mormon Males like Mitt Romney and the issue of sexual violence against women: there is nothing in their training or culture that would lead them to treat sexual violence as seriously as the integrity and reputation of the church. Without explicitly stating that crimes like murder, rape, and incest should be immediately reported to police, the CHI creates a web of policies that will encourage Mormon leaders to keep these issues as internal matters. This leaves children and women who have been victimized at the mercy of male lay ministers who have no professional qualifications when it comes to dealing with criminals or assisting victims.

This is why, unlike so many Republican goose-steppers, I find the story about Mitt Romney’s efforts to stop a life-saving abortion to be entirely plausible. It’s also why I find the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency and the possible impact on the U.S. Supreme Court’s makeup to be horrifying.

Rape is rape is rape. And rape is evil. And no woman should be forced by the government to bear the child of her attacker. And no legislator should presume to meddle in this area. How many times have we got to say it? Perhaps I’m not articulate enough on the subject. Perhaps this gentleman can help me say it more clearly:

Mitt’s Mormonism Matters

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the news lately over Evangelical Christians calling Mormonism a cult and preferring presidential candidate Rick Perry over Mitt Romney for this reason. The most reasonable explanation of the opinion I’ve seen came from Rev. Robert Jeffress:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=bestoftv/2011/10/07/tsr-romney-values-voter-mormon.cnn

The other Republican candidates keep taking the high road and saying that being a Mormon should be a non-factor in Romney’s candidacy. I believe they are doing this so they can look magnanimous and also to keep from having anyone apply scrutiny to their own religious beliefs.

So let’s try a little exercise. Let’s bridge the gap between Romney’s religion and muse about what Mormonism might mean in terms of real life presidential policy.

Women

If you’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions, you’ll know that the LDS Church threatens stiff punishment for anyone who has an abortion or assists others to have an abortion. Many religious politicians have been able to strike a reasonable compromise by saying that while they personally opposed abortion, they recognised the right of individuals and society at large to determine that matter for themselves. Mitt doesn’t get that liberty. If he sincerely is Mormon, then as head of the US Government he would be responsible for assisting others in obtaining abortions so long as it remained legal.

The good ol’ CHI is also strictly opposed to in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, and single parenting. How would that translate to a Mormon president’s social policy?

There’s also the problem that comes with Mormonism’s teachings that a woman’s place is in the home and a man is head of the family. If Mitt really believes in his faith, then Americans can’t count on him to address the wage gap between male and female workers or do anything about the glass ceiling that affects women’s job progress.

Minorities

Racial and sexual minorities might want to consider what it would mean to have a Mormon president. Herman Cain graciously sidestepped the question over Romney’s faith when asked, but I wonder if the African-American candidate knows what Mormonism has to say about black people. Would the ironically named Mr. Cain have a problem with a president who believed him to be a descendent of THE Cain, born in this life with The Curse of Cain because he sat on the fence during the War in Heaven between God and Lucifer?

A Mormon president would be under massive pressure to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and revoke any marriage-like benefits currently available to same-sex partners. A Mormon president would be obligated by his faith to oppose gay adoption or birth to gay couples via surrogacy or artificial insemination. Since Mormonism sees homosexuality as a form of delusion or even a mental illness, would a Mormon president be in favour of recriminalising gay sex acts?

But let’s not forget the extra-fun perennial issue:

That, er, Israeli-Palestinian Thing

Mormons are pro-Israel. Not because they are anti-Arab or anti-Islam, but because Mormonism was founded as a type of neo-Judaism. Mormons consider themselves literal descendants of Israel (usually through Ephraim) and borrow heavily from the Old Testament for their religious rituals. Mormons look forward to The Second Coming, when Jesus returns to Earth and reigns in glory before the final judgement. However, very specific prophecies must be fulfilled before this can happen. The nation of Israel needed to be established. That’s been done, and Mormons are in favour of its continued existence. (Sorry, Ahmadinejad.) One of the biggies is that the Jewish temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Israel then needs to be on the brink of annihilation, at which time Jesus descends and shazam, world peace.

Prophecies are all well and good and abstract, but let’s think through the physical realities. If you are a faithful Mormon you aren’t anti-Palestinian per se, but you are definitely pro-Israel. What’s more, if the temple is to be rebuilt then a Mormon would have to favour Jewish control over Jerusalem to the point of making the reconstruction of the temple feasible.

I doubt most Mormons know what the Al-Aqsa Mosque is or why it’s important to Islam. I also doubt that most of them know that it’s parked right on top of the ruins of the Jewish temple. So let’s review. Translating abstract belief into real-world foreign policy, if he truly believes in his faith, he’d like the Second Coming to happen as soon as possible. This means peace in the Middle East doesn’t really benefit God’s plan. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has got to go, and the Jewish Temple has got to be rebuilt. And if one thing could trigger Armageddon, it would be knocking down the Dome of the Rock. How on earth can a US President shape foreign policy with this kind of awkward religious doctrine hanging over his conscience?

But of course this is just theoretical

Would any of this actually affect a possible Romney presidency? I doubt it. Romney is a politician first and a Mormon second. His political track record shows that. Like Obama, I feel that Romney pays lip service to religion because he knows it’s required for the American public to feel that he is firm in his convictions. But this little exercise does demonstrate how difficult it is to elect a Mormon because you simply can’t predict how serious someone like Mitt is in implementing his faith in the real world. Mormonism isn’t just a religion. It’s a social, cultural, and foreign policy rolled up into a church.

The repeating refrain among the flock of GOP hopefuls is that religion doesn’t matter when it’s inconvenient to a candidacy but it matters very much when it’s helpful. I’d hope that voters notice this and carefully consider what exactly they’re signing on for when endorsing a candidate.