Consider the following scenario: four candidates are running for president in 2008. One is a pro-choice Protestant who believes in balanced budgets and would cut spending and reduce taxes, but is divorced and remarried to someone who also is a divorcee.
The second candidate is a Catholic, who is pro-life, but who believes in tax increases and more government spending to help the poor. This candidate is married, but during the 60s he smoked dope and lived in an ashram with two women.
The third is Jewish and supports the Iraq war and Israel against those who wish to destroy it, is married to a gentile and thinks same-sex marriage is OK.
The fourth candidate is a Mormon, who is married to the same woman he started out with, is pro-life, opposes same-sex marriage, wants to cut taxes and government spending, would put more conservatives on the Supreme Court and appears consistent in his private and public behavior.
According to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, if you are a conservative Christian voter, you are more likely to vote for the Protestant, Catholic or Jewish candidate before you would vote for the Mormon, though he is more in line with your political philosophy.
The poll found that while anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism are fading among voters, anti-Mormonism is not. Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.
The impetus for the poll appears to be the likely presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.
In a telephone interview, Governor Romney tells me he doesn't believe religion is a factor "when people know the real individual."
Asked whether he might speak about church and state, Romney says, "There may well be a time when something is said by me or something happens that crystallizes the issue for people, but I believe the people in this country subscribe to the Lincoln view that when people take the oath of office they abide by America's political religion and that they place the Constitution and the rule of law first."
The poll results may reflect attitudes toward Mormonism that are similar to what non-Catholic voters thought about Catholics four decades ago.
If an ambulance hits me, I care less where or how the driver worships than I do about his sense of direction to the nearest hospital. It troubles me not that a Mormon might be president. It does trouble me a great deal that so many people would think a person's faith ‹ regardless of whether one shares it‹ should be the only reason to deny someone the presidency.