Mormons Lead the Way

One of the things about the 2016 Presidential race that has confounded some is the continued strong support Donald J. Trump has among conservative, predominantly-white, religious groups. This hasn’t been a source of consternation solely to Democrats. After all, with opposition to abortion and reproductive rights being such a core issue for religious conservatives, it’s relatively easy to explain their support for any Republican nominee over a Democrat.

But supporting Donald J. Trump over the likes of someone like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who seemed to perfectly fit the mold of what white, conservative, particularly southern, evangelicals have been saying for decades they want in a nominee, has raised fundamental questions among some about the integrity of the evangelical movement and its commitment to any Christ-like form of Christianity. With character issues always previously of primary concern to evangelicals, support for Trump has renewed questions from the Jimmy Swaggart and Tammy Faye Bakker eras about whether or not the white, conservative, evangelical movement is more about money at times than about Christianity.

There have, of course, been exceptions. Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has consistently and politely noted that he cannot in good conscience support either major party candidate and has encouraged evangelicals to do the same. But Moore has always been a bit of a more liberal outlier. He has, for example, spoken out for some time against what he describes as cultural Christianity’s tolerance of racism and bigotry and thus its inconsistency with the New Testament.

Many more evangelicals have instead followed the lead of Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr., whose expressions of loyalty to Donald Trump seem to put him in the “Trump could shoot someone in the middle of the street and I would still vote for him” camp. Any parent of a student at Liberty University, or any alumnus of Liberty University, should be very concerned about Falwell’s appearance on CNN the evening of October 12. Putting aside Falwell’s views on Trump, for the experienced president of the largest Christian university in the world to struggle so clumsily with the basic questions posed, raises its own serious questions about whether or not Falwell is actually the suitable president of an institution of higher education or simply the owner of a hereditary family business empire.

Some students at Liberty University have become sufficiently concerned to take a public stand. A group calling itself “Liberty United Against Trump” is circulating the statement below for signature.


Falwell in a statement of his own noted his support of the students’ right to express their views. He also challenged the accuracy of their assertions, however, and then went on to say that “[t]his student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.” That in turn prompted a student to describe Falwell’s notion that their opposition to Trump somehow constituted ignoring Jesus’s teachings to be ridiculous.

Thus sits the issue at the largest Christian university in the world.

But among conservative religious groups, there is one where a not insubstantial number of members may have broken with the rest on principle. These are some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church.

A Utah poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday by the Salt Lake City-based firm, Y2 Analytics, shows Trump and Clinton in a virtual tie at 26%, Libertarian Gary Johnson at 14%, and BYU graduate and independent candidate Evan McMullin at 22%. In Utah!

Most pundits have tied this amazing development to growing Mormon disenchantment with Trump, where in Utah Mormons make up about 61% of the population. Of course, a very prominent Mormon widely considered among the more honorable men in politics regardless of what you may think of his policy positions – Mitt Romney – long ago came out against both Trump and Clinton. In recent days, additional prominent, though perhaps less well-respected, Mormon elected officials have also done so. Among them are U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona).

It appears that among conservative religious groups Mormon leaders in public life have led the way on this issue.

Prince William County has both substantial white evangelical and Mormon communities, with members of each group holding high office in the area. Corey Stewart and U.S. Congresswomen Barbara Comstock have put their careers in play with their very public and opposite positions on this issue. In contrast, the silence in Prince William County from prominent local elected officials from the two conservative groups discussed here – has been deafening.


8 comments on “Mormons Lead the Way

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    I have to echo what you say about Jerry Falwell, Jr. I don’t care about his views on Trump one way or another. But I remember reading a newspaper column he wrote a while ago in support of Trump. It read like it came from a 9th grade kid. Just how it was written made me question how the writer could possibly be a university president. Then I remember wondering how his PR people could ever have let something like that go out without improving it. It was ridiculous.

  2. -

    PWC Democratic Party Chair Calls
    on Republican Elected Officials to Take a Stand

    The latest abhorrent revelations regarding the words and actions of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump are not only representative of a well-documented pattern of misconduct that stretches back decades and continues to the present day. They are also a catalyst for sober reflection.

    The success of American Democracy depends heavily on the existence of multiple political parties mutually committed to fundamental American values, who differ primarily on how best to pursue those values. While Democrats may have preferred President Obama’s policies to those offered by former Republican nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney, most of us never questioned McCain’s and Romney’s underlying suitability and respect for the office of the Presidency. In our lifetimes there has never been a major party nominee whose views are more inconsistent with the fundamental principles of their own party, and who is more dangerous and unfit for the Presidency, than Donald Trump.

    As various Republican candidates and office holders have withdrawn their endorsements of Trump, some, like Barbara Comstock, will have their sincerity questioned. Voters will fairly ask whether or not such actions are based on principle or on the personal political calculus of being in a competitive race for the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

    But some prominent Republicans not currently on the ballot or facing a competitive election challenge have taken what seem to be principled stands. Mitt Romney did so long ago and continues to do so today. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Martha Roby (R-AL) have also done so. So too have conservative Republican commentators like Anna Navarro, Amanda Carpenter, Hugh Hewitt, George Will, and Tara Setmeyer.
    Locally some Republicans have also taken principled stands. Some Republican members of the Board of County Supervisors quietly let it be known months ago that they would not be supporting Trump. True to their word they have made multiple appearances without Trump signage or advocacy. Others like BOCS Chair, Corey Stewart, and Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31), have been vigorous Trump supporters. While Democrats vehemently disagree with them, we can at least respect that they have taken a position and owned it.

    What it is difficult to respect are those local officials who are not on the ballot, who are in safe, sometimes gerrymandered, districts, and who have tried to have it both ways. While disdaining Trump in front of certain groups, they march proudly with Trump signs and are full-throated advocates in front of an extremist base. This is not only hypocritical, but the height of cowardice. It is time that these local officials tell county citizens unequivocally where they stand. No one is asking them to vote for Hillary Clinton, but you cannot be both simultaneously for and against Donald Trump. It is time that these individuals – elected officials like Pete Candland, Jeanine Lawson, Ruth Anderson, Willie Deutsch, Alyson Satterwhite, Rich Anderson, Jackson Miller, Tim Hugo – display the simple courage and basic human decency to stand up and be counted at this important moment. History and future voters should hold them accountable for the decisions they make or do not make today.

    On their decisions and on those of countless other principled Republicans across the nation may hinge the future of the American democratic experiment. Will there be a needed and robust Republican Party in America, or will it be replaced by an unprincipled party of Trump.

  3. -

    This doesn’t surprise me given how lots of evangelicals, particularly Baptists, think Mormonism is a false religion. Remember that in 2012 Newt Gingrich with all his personal problems crushed the squeaky clean Mitt Romney in South Carolina among evangelicals. But you’re right that the electeds from both groups around hear are awfully quiet unlike their national leaders.

  4. -

    I didn’t realize until I read the student statement that Trump did so poorly among Liberty students. I saw the Falwell interview and he talked about standing ovations as if the student body was overwhelmingly in love with Trump.

  5. -

    Wow! There’s so much to work with here. Jerry Falwell inherited the family business much like Trump got his start in his father’s footsteps. It’s not surprising that they don’t spend a lot of time on reflection.

    Many of the local Republicans have found it more rewarding to ignore national politics and immerse themselves in school board meetings. I suspect that this is no coincidence. They lost their school board and they want it back.

    The latest outrage is their support of a frivolous lawsuit against school board members for having the nerve to supervise a principal who runs a little league out of the school office. Suddenly getting the taxpayers their money’s worth becomes a matter of avoiding lawsuits instead of discouraging moonlighting on the day job.

    What kind of judge would accept the use of court time on a personal vendetta? What kind of lawsuit begins with contacting the media?

  6. -

    If you look at Candland’s donations, you’ll see a big fat check from Utah for $10,000, does anyone else find that disturbing?
    Why would Utah want to influence politics in PWC? The more you pay attention, the more Mormons in a position of power in PWC, you encounter, seems strange.

    [Muckraker Note: We’re actually not aware of anything indicating Mormons are disproportionately in positions of power in PWC. The only elected official of whom we are aware who happens to be a Mormon is Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland. As prior posts will confirm, we are no fan of his here at the Muckraker. But many elected officials receive contributions from outside the state. Perhaps Candland has family or old college friends in Utah, which would make such a contribution unremarkable.]

  7. -

    Position of power doesn’t necessarily mean elected official. We all know the biggest, literally and physically, mormon that controls everyone is Mac Haddow. He has tremendous influence in PWC politics. We all know that the elected officials are just puppets to the real influences of Haddow and he is not afraid to use the church for his destruction. Didn’t Haddow use someone from his church to start his first anonymous hate blog? He has absolutely no ethics.

  8. -

    I agree with “Fed Up.” Say whatever you want about Trump, but here in PWC the Trump, or more accurately, the Steve Bannon (since Trump actually puts himself out there) is Mac Haddow. He controls three supervisors as well as some school board members and a hate blog that spreads lies against anyone who opposes his puppet Pete Candland.

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