Senator Harry Reid
Office of Senator Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
An Open Letter to Senator Harry Reid Re: Attacks on Mormonism
Dear Senator Reid,
I, like you, am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, I was a member of a Gospel Doctrine class you taught as a lay Sunday School teacher in Washington, DC in the summer of 2001. I didn’t agree with your politics then, and I still don’t, but I appreciated your devotion to teaching.
As members of the LDS church, we are not obligated to support any particular candidate or political position. But, as you know, one of the articles of our faith is that “[w]e claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (11th Article of Faith). This obviously does not mean that everyone will afford us the same privilege and respect, but we certainly should seek to protect others’ rights to practice their religion and come to their defense when they are attacked, no matter what their religious affiliation. Is it not our duty to defend this right?
I remind you that the LDS church and its members have suffered severe persecution in their brief history. Early church members were driven from state to state by mobs, militias and hostile communities; deprived of property; slandered; tortured, raped and murdered...all because of their beliefs. Seeking protection of the rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Joseph Smith traveled to Washington, DC to supplicate President Martin Van Buren for assistance. As you may recall, President Van Buren punted, saying, “...your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. If I take up for you, I shall lose the vote in Missouri” (Documentary History of the Church, 4:80).
Senator Reid, as the 2012 General Election approaches, it appears that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President. It goes without saying that there are legitimate attacks against Mr. Romney and not every attack will be based on religion, but actual attacks on Mormonism related to Mr. Romney have already begun. Lawrence O’Donnell, of MSNBC, recently launched a baseless smear against Mormonism and in all likelihood President Obama and his political allies (of which you are clearly one) will launch vicious attacks on Mormonism for political gain. Putting aside the obvious hypocrisy of their remaining silent on your Mormonism while attacking Mr. Romney’s, isn’t it despicable and beyond even the realm of political smears to launch such attacks?
Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution states that: “...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I don’t expect you to support and defend Mr. Romney’s political positions, associations, decisions, actions or background, but will you not defend his religion; your religion? Will you honor your oath of office by supporting and defending the Constitution? I would hope that you would do so for a Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist or any other denomination or religion, but your silence would be all the more glaring if maintained in the face of attacks on your own faith. Will you stand silently as your political friends trample the Constitution and smear your religion? Are political points that important?
The First Amendment to our divinely-inspired Constitution (D&C 101:80) protects the rights of the free exercise of religion. It also protects freedom of speech. I acknowledge that those who baselessly attack religions - Mormonism in this case - are free to do so and you and I are free to stay silent or speak. My question is: How will you exercise your freedom of speech? Will you follow in President Van Buren’s footsteps or will you be courageous, even if it means losing the vote? Is the cause just? Can you do something? Will you do something...anything?
Your brother in the gospel,
Garrett R. Hall