A PRACTICAL LESSON IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND A GUIDE TO RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
Sunday, September 2, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
In my immediately previous piece for this website, I noted how I began to watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Major Party National Conventions every four years back in 1984: indeed, I have not missed a single moment of any such Convention on television since and (obvious to anyone who knows the history of The Green Papers) have been writing about them for this very website since 2000. Of course, I had been watching large chunks of National Convention coverage for a long time before then (for instance: my rushing home from work in order to catch a key portion of the 1980 Democratic Convention is mentioned in the piece I wrote for this website following the death of Senator Ted Kennedy) going all the way back to the (in)famous- and wild (not only in the streets, but also within the Convention Hall itself)- Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago: I would have also watched much of the earlier Republican Convention in Miami Beach that year, except that I was spending that week at Boy Scout Camp, far away from any access to TV in those well pre-smartphone days (although my tentmates and I listened to the Roll Call of the States on which Richard Nixon was nominated for President in 1968 on a pocket transistor radio of the era into the wee hours of the morning, for which we were strongly admonished next day by the Assistant Scoutmaster for so violating the concept of 'Lights Out'-- even in the Boy Scouts of America, apparently, American Politics itself took a back seat to the organization's rules and regulations).
The 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco that had nominated former Vice-President Walter "Fritz" Mondale for President and the Congresswoman from my own back then-Congressional District in New York City's Borough of Queens, Geraldine Ferraro, for Vice-President had adjourned sine die a little over a month before that same year's Republican National Convention which would renominate President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George H.W. Bush would first convene in Dallas (ah, the good old days with more time between Conventions!). Over a few days in succession, during that month in between those two Conventions, I noticed clean-cut and clean-shaven young men in white shirts- each with a dark tie- and dark pants while wearing well-polished shoes wandering all over my urban neighborhood in groups of two or three carrying either clipboards or what appeared to be Bibles (I was 28 years old in 1984 [yes, indeed, it was- literally- half my lifetime ago as I type this!] and my impression was that none of these men were quite my own age)-- each of these young men appeared to be wearing a name tag of some sort which hung underneath their respective left shirt pockets but I could never get close enough to read them as I went about my daily business (I did notice that other young men just like the ones I had been seeing of late in my own neighborhood seemed to be all over northwestern Queens but never appeared, or so it was my own observation, in "the City"- that is: Manhattan below Central Park- during those few days!)
Only on the fourth or fifth day after I had first noticed these young men in my own neighborhood did I happen to see four of them sitting together across from me as I first got on the Subway at the stop closest to my apartment; I now could- finally!- read the name tags on their seemingly identical white shirts-- each one had their names in all-upper case letters and, underneath each of their names, was the following- in Spanish: la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días. Not at all fluent in Spanish (either back then or now!), I could- nonetheless- rather easily puzzle through this phrase ("Jesucristo" was a no-brainer; I knew what an "Iglesia" was; I knew what "Santos" were; and I knew what "Dias" meant-- and "Ultimos" was clearly related to the English cognate 'ultimate') and quickly realized that it translated directly into 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' ('Oh!'- I immediately thought- 'these guys are Mormons!').
I was not, at the time, altogether unfamiliar with at least the 'basics' of 'Mormonism' (as the religious tradition of which the LDS Church is the major expression is called in numerous Encyclopedias of Religion in my own home library): as someone who had been interested in Comparative Religion going well back into my pre-teen years (and, as part of this, collecting- thanks largely to college campus book sales and used book stores- Sacred Scriptures of various and sundry Religions, their branches, their denominations and their sects), I had long had a copy of the Book of Mormon and, later on- during my teenage years (high school into college)- I had also had found myself a copy of The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants (I had even also found and purchased- well before 1984- a copy of the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines and Covenants and the King James Version of the Holy Bible as a set!)-- I had read through them all (not that I had ever become at all interested in converting to the LDS Church, however-- my so perusing these volumes was far more of an intellectual exercise on my part)...
for example: I, thus, already knew that the Book of Mormon claimed- among other things- that Jesus Christ had visited the aboriginal peoples of the Americas after his resurrection (post-crucifixion in 1st Century Palestine); I, also knew, of course, about the Mormon practice of polygamy during the 19th Century (itself abandoned by the mainstream LDS church particularly in the wake of the case of Reynolds v. United States before the U.S. Supreme Court [98 U.S. 145 (1878)] and especially as regarded efforts to, thereafter, gain Statehood for the remnant of Utah Territory that did, in fact, become the State of Utah in 1896); I knew that the LDS Church holds to the concept of Continuous Revelation (largely thought of, among the general population, as the Church's leadership- for instance- claiming to receive revelations from God in the course of their establishing and maintaining the ordinances of the Church: but I also already knew that the outsider's view of this was at least somewhat distorted [as such a narrow view of what Continuous Revelation meant itself implied a "cult-like" (of which more later in this piece) relationship between leader and congregant when, instead, the LDS Church actually encourages individual members to seek out divine revelation and inspiration on their own in relation to, for example, the raising of their own families or in the proper conduct of business])...
I knew that Mormons practice a rather strict code of conduct regarding, for example, their not drinking coffee, tea or alcoholic beverages nor smoking tobacco (the first three would be a "deal-breaker" to my ever converting to the LDS Church in any event, by the way- although, by 1984, I had already given up the smoking I had so readily enjoyed for nearly a decade before then) and also that the LDS Church encouraged modest dress and proper, business-like appearance emphasizing good grooming and cleanliness (hence the clean-cut, clean-shaven [very clean shaven: not even a hint of "5 o'clock shadow" as late as 10 PM!] men acting as Mormon missionaries to [or so I assumed, from the Spanish on their name tags] the Latino population of my Borough back in the Summer of 1984) and have strict ordinances regarding Human Sexuality against (for example) premarital sex or anything producing lustful thoughts (such as: viewing pornography, engaging in any sexual activity short of intercourse between those not married to one another or even while alone [I'll here leave it to the reader to figure out what that might be!])...
I also knew that the LDS Church had units of geographical organization such as "stakes" (roughly equivalent to a 'diocese') and "wards" (roughly equivalent to a 'parish') and, finally, I well knew of the appearance of Mormons in popular culture- both positive (there is no doubt that those of my own generation within the entertainment world's Osmond family- in particular, brother and sister Donny and Marie Osmond- were the best-known of Mormons while I myself was coming of age during the 1970s) and negative (an inveterate fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, I- nonetheless- knew that Conan Doyle's portrayal of the Mormons in his A Study in Scarlet was a sensationalized one [in which, by the way, the Mormons were not alone: Conan Doyle also distorted Sikhism in at least one other of his stories involving the Great Detective]).
I only note all the above in at least some detail because it may well explain my own personal reaction to the following event:
Not too long after seeing those Mormon missionaries on a New York City subway train (as described above), I attended a weeknight New York Mets' baseball game at old Shea Stadium in the Flushing section of Queens-- first pitch was 7:05 PM and I always liked to get to such a game no later than 5:45 (that is: not too long after the stadium gates would first open) so that I could more easily get food and drink before settling into my seat. No more than 10 or 15 minutes after I had sat down, several (some eight or nine, all told) of the very type of Mormon missionaries I had been seeing around Queens for almost two weeks up to that point took up seats in the two rows behind and to the right of me...
at one point, I overheard one of them (from the way the others reacted to him, I presumed he was the group's leader) tell the others: "If anyone here asks you, just tell them we're Scouts" (I am presuming he was referring to anyone attending that ballgame who couldn't translate the Spanish on their name tags, which they were still wearing). I didn't talk to them, nor they to me, at any point but I assumed they were merely there for the same reason I was- to engage in the good ol' American pastime of taking in a baseball game in person-- but I thought about this as I was riding the #7 subway train home that night and wondered just why they felt they had to so downplay who they really were to non-Spanish speakers (I certainly don't recall an outburst of anti-Mormon passion in Queens that particular summer [nor at any other time during the nearly 14 years I lived in that Borough]-- though, perhaps, there was and I just never heard about it [despite my regularly reading the newspapers and listening to news radio stations, as well as "keeping my ear to the streets" which is something that is often a matter of survival in a New York City neighborhood]-- more likely, it was something of a "pre-emptive strike" by members of a group [in this case, a religious group] that is often misunderstood, if not even worse, at least elsewhere than in New York City).
I have to admit I was, at the time, saddened that- in a United States of America whose very Constitution of the United States (something, by the way, that Mormons believe is divinely inspired [although I myself don't]) protects Free Exercise of Religion- members of a religious organization (who were, by their mode of dress, so very visible as a group of some sort) had to so hide just who they were and what they were about within such a public setting!
It's sad to think that there are those out there who even think Governor Romney has to "humanize" himself. I myself have never thought of Romney as not being "human" (in what- or so I presume- is the social sense of the term) in the first place and I shudder when I contemplate where such a concept might even be coming from (a deep-seated prejudice, engendered by all too much misunderstanding, within many "out there" against Romney's own Mormon Church, perhaps?)-- from my [RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON's] own summing up of the 2012 Republican National Convention, as posted on The Green Papers: 1 September 2012
We were Mormons and, growing up in Michigan, that might have seemed unusual or out of place- but I really don't remember it that way! My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.-- 2012 Republican Presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts W. MITT ROMNEY during his speech accepting his Party's Presidential Nomination: 30 August 2012
If Mitt Romney, indeed, grew up in an atmosphere altogether devoid of prejudice against those of his own faith, so much the better!
Mormonism certainly doesn't appear, in retrospect, to at all have harmed his own father's career, either as an automobile company executive or a politician (as Governor of Michigan and, later, a member of the President's Cabinet) and the elder Romney's own short-lived campaign for the Republican presidential nomination back in 1968 sputtered, out of gas, far more because of Romney's saying that he had been "brainwashed on Vietnam" (turning against the war at a time when that was still political suicide, particularly for a Republican) than either Mormonism or questions about his "natural-born citizen"ship (a constitutional requirement in order for anyone to even be President of the United States, as we all know from the attacks by so-called 'Birthers' on President Obama's eligibility to hold his High Office)- although the ultraconservative publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader at the time, William Loeb, was not at all above publicly referring to George Romney as "that wetback" (and I myself think that- had the elder Romney emerged as a viable more moderate alternative to Richard Nixon as the 1968 pre-Convention period proceeded apace- the issue of George Romney's birth in Mexico [albeit to parents who still held American citizenship at the time] would have become a contentious issue).
As I myself noted- or at least well implied- in the sentence immediately following that from which I quoted myself above, Mormonism certainly doesn't appear to have harmed the late Congressman Morris Udall's showing in the 1976 Democratic Presidential Primaries (even though Udall ultimately lost that year's Democratic presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter) any more than Udall's having had a glass eye did! (If only by way of disclaimer here, by the way: I actually met Mo Udall- and even had a rather lengthy conversation with him- while he was campaigning on the Boston University campus in the days leading up to the Massachusetts Presidential Primary that year [he had appeared in the "dining commons" in which I happened to be having breakfast that particular morning in order to do an interview to be broadcast 'live' over B.U.'s "carrier-current" AM radio station (even more interestingly, one of the interviewers was someone who not only lived in my own dormitory that [my sophomore] year but had also been a couple years ahead of me in my high school back in Jersey!)]).
But none of above changes the fact that a lot of Americans (evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians on the Right, even some evangelical Christians on the Left) honestly and earnestly believe that Mormonism is a "cult" (while many others- principally on the Left, though not only so- seem to think of the LDS Church as at least something of a- for lack of a better term- "Stepford religion").
Now, "cult" is very loaded word! Certainly it is so in political usage (such as when I myself referred to both "the cult of Obama" and the "cult of Romney" in my 1 September 2012 piece) but it is especially so in its original religious context: the very term "cult" conjures up images of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas (1993) or the Heaven's Gate mass suicide as the Hale-Bopp comet streaked through the night skies (1997) and, above all else, it brings back the mass suicide (more murder-suicide) of the members of the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana in the wake of the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan of California while on a fact-finding mission (an event during which current California Congresswoman Jackie Speier- an aide to Ryan at the time- was seriously wounded) back in 1978...
it brings to the mind notions of a charismatic leader brainwashing and controlling his minions- ordinary, susceptible people who mistakenly joined his or her group- and the attempts to kidnap- and then "deprogram"- those who are seen as victims of the cult leader (it is in this context that the non-Mormon emphasizing Continuous Revelation to the LDS Church leadership alone so distorts the whole concept of Continuous Revelation as Mormons themselves understand it).
So, allow me to do a quick lesson here on some of the most basic concepts behind that field known as Comparative Religion:
Many- if not most- scholars of Comparative Religion utilize at least a variant of something called "the 4 C rule" in their attempts to discern whether or not something might qualify for definition as a religion: there are 4 words- all beginning with the letter 'C' in English- that each describe an aspect of what is necessary to Religion as it is understood, at least in the Modern World (though it can also be applied to earlier times)...
the 4 words are Creed, Culture, Code and Community-- anything missing one or more of these aspects is not a religion (thus, a religion must contain all four in order to be so defined as such).
Creed refers to one or more definitive statements of religious beliefs and/or philosophical values (one of the definitions of Philosophy being "the 'science' of estimating value") derived from said statements-- this does not mean that a religion itself has to have a specific written creed or outline of doctrines in the sense that mainstream Christian branches and denominations might but that one can (regardless of whether or not the given religion has done so) reduce that in which those who practice said religion share to one or more basic statements about just what the religion includes...
thus, even Atheism has its "creed" ('There is no God; there are no gods') and Unitarianism (even though Unitarian Universalists claim to have no specific 'Creed') has one as well- if only in the sense in which it is being used here (originally, Unitarianism- as its name implies- had a "creed" which can be stated as 'the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is rejected'; today- influenced more by its Univeralist "parent"- its "creed" can be stated as 'A free and responsible search for truth and meaning' [one of its own Principles and Purposes]).
Culture is here used pretty much in the same sense as "the 'culture' of a business corporation" or, perhaps, the term "sub-culture" might be more accurate. The use of the word 'culture' in this context is, indeed, somewhat problematic, as the ordinary meaning of the word itself is "ideas and concepts of a particular group that are intended to be transmitted to others within the group, either in the present or the future" when what is actually being considered here is the "vehicle"- for lack of a better term- through which such ideas and concepts are so transmitted (some use the Latin-derived term Cultus [which originally meant "(agricultural) labor"- the very root of the concept of 'plant cultivation'- but which, at least figuratively, came to mean 'training or education for some specific purpose'] as a substitute but this term is so exotic [and, in addition, being so unfamiliar to the general public suggests the very word "cult" itself])...
what is meant by religious 'culture' are the ritual practices of those who accept their religion's "creed" (as already described- even where no such creed or doctrinal statement exists) as well as any clerical organization (however loosely so organized). The rituals a Muslim pilgrim to Mecca follows during the Hajj, the liturgy of a Christian Church (the Catholic Mass; the United Methodist Order of Worship) or other religious group (the Siddur- the daily Prayer Book- used by devout Jews) would all come under the rubric of 'Culture' as intended herein... so would the hierarchy of the Catholic priesthood from Deacon to Pope, the methods of ordaining Presbyterian ministers and assigning them as pastors to individual churches, the training of Islamic imams or Jewish rabbis, the very concept of the Buddhist monk, etc.
All of these are 'Culture' because they are the very means of transmitting and communicating the creed and its meaning(s) within the general membership of the religious group in question: worship- personal or communal- is itself 'Culture' in this regard.
Code means a standard of conduct derived from the Creed and inculcated via the Culture of a given religious group in those who might (or at least are expected to) share said Code: this standard may or may not be ethical, it may or may not be merely ritual (in cases in which- if you don't do religious things the "right" way- you are violating said Code)... it is not necessarily simply a list of "Do"s and "Don't"s (though it can be): the important thing is that those who do the inculcating in those who are so inculcated via methods of so inculcating (this all being part and parcel of the Culture of the religion) are so inculcating a Code that has some lineal connection to the Creed of that religion.
Finally, Community means those who can be identified as adherents to all three of the foregoing: institutions based on- and promotional of- all three of the foregoing would clearly be included (you might not be able to tell a Baptist from a Catholic walking down the same American street at the same time, but you could if you could find out what church each regularly attends: other members of religious communities are more obvious- a Muslim woman wearing a hijab=headscarf, a Jewish man wearing a kippah [Hebrew]=yarmulke[Yiddish]=skullcap, a bearded Sikh wearing a dastar=turban and the like)
Again, a given group must have all four- Creed, Culture (as explained above), Code and Community- in order to even be a religion: where one is missing, it is not a religion (or branch or denomination of a larger religion).
To take an obvious example: is Roman Catholicism a religion?
Answer: Yes-- why? First of all, it has Creed (actually, a number of creeds as well as numerous doctrinal statements- including a whole history of Papal Encyclicals); second, it has a Culture (the Mass, as aforesaid; a hierarchy of its own clergy, also already noted); third, it has a Code (what is sinful is well-defined in Catholicism); and, finally, it has a Community (those whom Catholicism itself calls "the Faithful").
Now-- is Atheism a religion (as some try to claim)?
Yes, Atheism has a Creed (again, as already noted: 'There is no God; there are no gods') but it has no Culture that flows therefrom (for what ritual do Atheists follow? A couple atheists meeting every other morning or so over Venti Caffe Americanos at their local Starbucks is not a religious ritual any more than a couple members of the same religious congregation doing the exact same thing! After all, Lutherans are not Lutherans because they might regularly meet each other over coffee: they are Lutherans because there is an identifiable set of religious doctrines defining "Lutherans", transmitted via Lutheran Churches [which have Lutheran pastors and a particular Order of Service and Hymnal], Lutherans attending worship services in such churches (or at the very least, claiming to be Lutherans even without such attendance) being expected to behave a certain, acceptable way and not behave in other, forbidden ways (whether or not such Lutherans actually adhere to such mores in their everyday lives) and one can look into a Lutheran church on a given Sunday or other Church Holy Day and say "oh!-- those people are Lutherans!"... Lutherans have all four aspects of religion: Creed, Culture, Code and Community... Atheists, on the other hand, do not! [and not even having a Culture immediately knocks Atheism out as a "religion"]).
The Lutherans I have cited above are, however, not all of a piece and, indeed, they are generally grouped within a larger religious grouping that itself is not all of a piece and it is here we get into branches and denominations:
Christianity, for example, is generally divided into three major branches- (Eastern) Orthodox, Roman Catholic and (Western) Protestant. A branch of a religion may itself be divided into denominations (thus, within Protestantism, one has- among others- Anglicans [Episcopalians within the USA], Baptists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians) and each of these denominations can be further subdivided into sects.
The best definition of a "sect" I have ever found is this: a sect is a religious group (again, it has to first pass the "4 C" test already described) that has broken away from- either purposely (that is: voluntarily) or not (they were thrown out of)- an already established (usually- but not always- larger) religious group (this other group is usually a denomination or branch of a religion, if not an entire identifiable religion itself) which the sect's members see (rightly or wrongly, from the perspective of an outsider) as having abandoned- or, at least, compromised- traditional beliefs (Creed in the "4 C" rule) and/or practices (Culture, where not also Code, in the "4 C" rule). A sect, therefore, is claiming itself to be (or, at least, comes to see itself as) a purer Community (in the sense of the "4 C" rule) than its "parent" religious group (again an outsider might, or might not, see said claim as valid [the group from which the sect is splitting off generally does not see the sect's claim as at all valid])- yet a sect generally remains within the realm of normative expression of religion within the greater society (the nation or region in which the members of the sect happen to live).
Meanwhile, the best definition of a "cult" (in its non-pejorative, non-derogatory sense) is the following: a cult is a religious group (again, it has to pass the "4 C" test in order to even be considered so) which- purposefully (voluntarily) only- differs significantly, and in a manifestly non-traditional manner, in one or more respects as to belief (Creed) and/or practice (Culture, where not also Code) from similar religious groups (whether a "parent" to the cult or not) considered to be the normative expression of such religious groups within the greater society.
A sect generally attempts to better (in their own eyes) preserve Tradition; a cult explicitly or implicitly rejects Tradition. A sect tends to be ultraorthodox, often defiantly so; a cult is unorthodox, whether decidedly so or not.
The problem is that cults (specifically as I have defined them above) may, or may not, necessarily be antinomian (that is: claim to answer only to a higher law than mere human secular or civil Law) and it is the antinomian cults (for what else were those groups consisting of those who- however innocently and misguidedly- followed Jim Jones, David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite?) that have been most responsible for producing the negative image most Americans- and others outside the United States- of our time tend to have when they hear the very word "cult".
For Mormonism, the issue is that- in the sense of the non-pejorative and non-derogatory definition of the word "cult" (as I myself have above defined it)- it is just such a cult... for normative Christians (whether of the so-called 'mainstream' denominations or evangelicals/pentecostals or even fundamentalists [who, themselves, would be more 'sect' in any event]) do not accept the authority of a Sacred Scripture in which, among other things, Jesus Christ has- effectively- already had his "Second Coming" by appearing to Americans of nearly two millennia ago not all that long after that Resurrection which Christians in general believe occurred, in a definite time and place, nearly halfway around the globe from America; nor do they accept the doctrine of Continuous Revelation which might well smack of sheer antinomianism were it not for the such obvious devotion of the LDS Church per se to Rule of Law (in the secular, civil sense of the term).
Through both its doctrines and its own history Mormonism does, in fact, differ significantly from normative expressions of that which the very name of its Church claims it to be: Christian... then again, much the same can fairly be said of Unitarian Universalists (or at least the Unitarian and Universalist traditions- neither of which are normative Christianity [the former because it rejects the Trinity; the latter because it denies Eternal Punishment]- from which Unitarian Universalism has sprung)!
Yet neither LDS'ers or UUs are necessarily bad people (in the secular sense)- that is: at all disrespectful of the Law (thus, antinomian)- because of their respective (albethey non-traditional) religions. In addition- and truth be told- early Christianity itself can fairly be seen, in historical retrospect, as a non-normative, non-traditional form of the Judaism of that time (certainly as practiced in mid-1st Century Palestine in the immediate aftermath of the death of Jesus up until the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and, perhaps, all the way up to the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine and the [First] Council of Nic[a]ea- that which produced the original version of the Nicene Creed [the most widely utilized creed in Christendom as a whole, by the way]- in A.D. 325: only with such a creed can a normative, traditional form of Christianity itself be so clearly seen!) and therefore- at least as regards its own relationship to Ancient Judaism- as having been, in its own long-ago past, a cult (in the non-derogatory, non-pejorative definition of same I am using herein)!
Indeed, Mormons have made all due effort- throughout the 20th Century and now into the early 21st- to become, as well as to be accepted as, mainstream: Marie Osmond is a spokesman in television commercials for a weight-loss product and no controversy is at all engendered and the very fact that one of the two Major Parties in the United States has just nominated a Mormon to be President of the United States (something as unthinkable but a few generations ago as a Major Party nominating an African-American for President [which the other Major Party is about to do yet again, by the way]) seems the very definition of the word "mainstream"! Thus- whether the definition I have provided for the word 'cult' be valid or not and whether the application of said definition of same to Mormonism be reasonable or not- Mormonism is not a CULT in the scary manner (hence my bold-faced CAPS for it earlier in this very sentence) in which the word is all too often applied nowadays!
In the end, all we can fall back upon are the words of Thomas Jefferson: The legitimate powers of Government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
It is only if and when the neighbor (regardless of how many gods, or none at all, he might believe in) actually picks one's pocket or breaks one's leg (or, at least, makes an overt attempt to do either, if not both) that a tort and/or crime has been committed: and only when the leader of a religious group proclaims that he (or she) alone has the inherent right to determine whose leg gets broken or whose pocket gets picked (or not) do we then run into the antinomian essence of that loaded word "cult"!
If one believes in Religious Freedom, one cannot then pick and choose which religions (or branches and denominations, sects or cults) get to be so free (nor can one then deny another's freedom to not have any religion at all).
If, in fact, Governor Romney comes off as, at times, "stiff"- or, at other times, all too much like an overpracticed automaton (even when he is heard emoting)- in his speaking style (which he has often been accused of doing), perhaps it is precisely because he adheres to a religious system that imposes rather rigid standards on him (and, as a result, he might also well come off differently when speaking to an audience in public than while he is sitting in an office more informally discussing, say, business plans with a small group of people with whom he works every day-- or maybe this is all solely due to his own personality and has nothing at all to do with his religion!): then again, he might well have adhered to rather rigid standards for himself (and, presumably, raised his children to follow these same standards) even had he been raised in another religious tradition, or none.
I, meanwhile, make my own judgments of how a politician has- or has not- done (in terms of political efficacy) based on his own spoken words (whether I happen to agree with them or not) as they appear in print (or at least in typeface on my computer screen), not at all based on the manner in which said words might have been delivered (this is precisely what I try to do in analyzing what was said at National Conventions, for example).
Thus, I go back that which I have quoted from myself at the start of the second portion of this piece and here pose the question it implies: why would Mitt Romney have to "humanize" himself as he runs for President?