This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Once again, the nation is in the thrall of debate over whether Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman or any other Mormon is Christian.
It's a well-worn stance by certain pastors and congregations who believe that Jesus Christ is the sole property of their own beliefs and that Mormonism, with its intriguing theological twists, has no claim.
Still, it's part and parcel of a debate that began when Joseph Smith founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830: Does a new faith have the right to deem itself Christian when its teachings diverge from traditional Christian foundations?
These days, with both Romney and Huntsman in the presidential race, hard-core preachers are stumbling all over each other to denounce Mormonism from the pulpit, the Internet and in rallies for the likes of Rick Perry.
Bill Keller, the self-styled "world's leading Internet Evangelist and the founder of LivePrayer.com," in 2007 famously said "a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan!"
On Monday, Keller called the faith "satanically inspired" and called Smith a "racist, pedophile, polygamist and murderer!" (Exclamation points his.) Moreover, he says, "those who believe in a false Gospel like the Mormon's [sic] teach will die and be in hell for all eternity."
Earlier this year, the blogger Bryan Fischer posited that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment was to protect the free exercise of Christianity, and that Islam has no "fundamental First Amendment claims."
Nor, Fischer wrote on rightlyconcerned.com and the American Family Association's website, do Muslims have the right to build mosques on U.S. soil.
Then he drifts into how Christians have had their rights stripped from them and why President Barack Obama is in way over his head in Libya. The AFA primly notes that Fischer's opinions are his and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.
In my copy of the Constitution, the First Amendment reads in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." Luckily for him and Keller, the First Amendment has another clause freedom of speech.
In Article VI, the document also prohibits any religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Now, I was raised, haphazardly, in the Catholic Church. I've disagreed with Catholic principles and teachings such as those on birth control, and heartily concurred when the pope denounced executions except in rare and horrific circumstances.
But in my birth family, there was one simple rule: Never ask another person what his or her religion is. It's not just impolite, it's none of our business. More importantly, it doesn't matter.
Ours is a world filled with an uncountable number of faith traditions as rich and varied as every individual human on the planet. Neither Christians nor Muslims nor Jews nor people of any other faith have any right to damn another believer. That's not up to us.
It is, on the other hand, our job to judge actions, individually and societally, and to recognize good as well as ill deeds.
We have a sophisticated, albeit unruly and complex, political system that gives every registered voter the opportunity to cast a ballot for her or his candidate. I might oppose Romney or any other candidate for their prior actions, positions and current statements, but their religion is not my concern.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook/pegmcentee.