The CNN blog just ran a lengthy interview with Tricia Erickson, who makes a variety of arguments that no believing Mormon should ever be elected President. (Link here; note that in her interview she cites language from the endowment ceremony).
Erickson’s arguments are predictably bad. She repeats the old evangelical anti-Mormon reasoning that Mormons are all basically automatons, and suggests that any Mormon politician would have a secret church-promoting agenda. It’s an argument straight out of The Manchurian Candidate (and reminiscent of the anti-Catholic arguments raised against JFK). Her argument, such as it is, is sufficiently silly and hyperbolic that it is essentially self-refuting. But what are the implications of the article’s prominent publication today — what does it say about the current political and religious discourse?
I found it interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it surprised me that CNN would run this sort of thing. The article was a silly, self-serving (buy my book!) hack job. Erickson isn’t particularly accurate in her discussions of the church or church members. She also quotes lines from the temple, which CNN should know will bother church members. The decision to run this anyway suggests that there is still an audience for this kind of thing, which is unfortunate. Her article is interesting not for its content but as an illustration of attitudes which still exist. (Check the comments at CNN, if you dare. Yikes.)
On the flip side, CNN also asked Richard Bushman to weigh in, and he did. In his response, included after her interview, he reasonably points out that Erickson has not given any actual evidence that Romney or any other LDS politician would be a puppet. CNN also asked CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) to weigh in, probably because Erickson’s interview was full of random potshots at Muslims. CAIR spokesmen also responded, and the statements from the CAIR folks defended Mitt Romney and Mormons. It was a good showing from CAIR, and from Richard Bushman. (And it serves as an illustration that, as MikeInWeHo has suggested, a “Mormon ADL” could serve a useful role, providing organizations like CNN with responses to this kind of thing when needed.)