In such a week politics intrudes, but briefly. Much has been said and written about whether evangelicals will support a Mormon candidate for president. My own view has been that Governor Romney’s Mormonism will meet with at least equal resistance from non-Christians and secularists. Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate.com is a case in point. He writes in the December 20 issue of the Financial Times : "Nor is it chauvinist to declare that certain religious views are disqualifying in and of themselves. There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country. Others would, quite reasonably, not vote for a religious fanatic or fundamentalist¯a Christian who thinks that the earth is less than 6,000 years old or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord, Xenu. "Such views are disqualifying because they are dogmatic, irrational and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself and see the world as it is. By the same token, many secular Americans would reject anyone who believes the founding whoppers of Mormonism. The LDS Church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, unearthed a book of golden plates buried in a hillside in western New York in 1827. The plates were inscribed in ‘reformed’ Egyptian hieroglyphics¯a non-existent version of a language that had yet to be decoded with the help of the Rosetta stone. Smith was able to dictate his translation of The Book of Mormon by looking through diamond-encrusted decoding glasses and burying his face in a hat. He was an obvious conman. "Mr. Romney has every right to believe in conmen but he should not be running the country if he does. One might object that all religious beliefs are irrational¯what is the difference between Smith’s ‘seer stone’ and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud. The world’s greater religions have had thousands of years to splinter, moderate and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, on the other hand, remains monolithic, literalistic and cultish. But Mr. Romney has never indicated that there is any distance between himself and Mormon doctrine. He is a church ‘elder’ who performed missionary service in France as a young man and did not protest against his church’s overt racism and policy of discrimination, in which black men were denied admission to the priesthood before the policy was abolished in 1978. He usually tries to defuse the issue of his religion with the tired jokes about polygamy or cries foul and insist that his religious views are ‘private.’ They may be that, but if Mr. Romney is running for president, they are the country’s concern as well." Mr. Weisberg is less than civil, but one may well share much of his evaluation of the LDS belief system without excluding the possibility of supporting Mitt Romney. (For my misgivings about the LDS, see "Is Mormonism Christian?" in the March 2000 issue of First Things .) First, what would people think of someone who abandoned the religion of his forebears in order to advance his political career? (Mr. Romney is apparently having difficulties enough in explaining some of his political changes.) Second, do we really want to exclude from high office millions of citizens born into a religion whose tenets strike most Americans as bizarre, especially when there is no evidence that those peculiar tenets would have a bearing on their public actions? Third, candidates should be judged on the basis of their character, competence, and public positions. That one was born a Mormon is not evidence of a character flaw. That one remains a Mormon may be evidence of theological naiveté or indifference. But we are not electing the nation’s theologian. And, it should be noted, there are very intelligent Mormons who are doing serious intellectual work to move their tradition toward a closer approximation of Christian orthodoxy, which is a welcome development. In any event, Romney’s being a Mormon may be a factor but it should not be the decisive factor in supporting or opposing his candidacy. Once again, in politics the question frequently comes down to, Compared to what? Depending upon the character, competence, and positions of the other candidate or candidates, it is conceivable that one might support Mitt Romney. Please note that this is not an endorsement. It is a response to Jacob Weisberg and others who would use religion to oppose a candidate for the presidency in a manner not substantively different from their use of religion in opposing the present incumbent of the White House. One need only recall the innumerable rants against a president who is born again, prays daily, thinks he has a hotline to God, and is bent upon replacing our constitutional order with a theocracy. In the game book of unbridled partisanship, any stick will do for beating up on the opposition.