Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican presidential candidate, didn't mince words when he denounced the Dallas pastor who called the Mormon religion "a cult."
"The fact that ... some moron can stand up and make a comment like that ... it's outrageous," Huntsman said. "Second of all, the fact that we are spending so much time discussing it makes it even worse."
God bless you, Brother Huntsman, and everyone else who's trying to keep religion out of politics.
Religion has no place in politics and, like millions of other independent voters, I won't be voting for anyone who constantly injects religion into politics - those who claim to be doing the will of God by running for public office. Let's leave God out of it. And by the way, I feel the same way about athletes and sports teams who recruit God as their personal and/or collective cheerleader.
I don't intend to demean religion as an important factor in American life and I have great admiration and respect for people of faith, even though I'm not a particularly religious person. Religion is an intensely personal matter, however, and doesn't belong on the national political stage.
The public discussion about whether Mormonism is a cult was started recently by Robert Jeffress, a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Dallas and a supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the GOP presidential nomination. "Mormonism is not Christianity," Jeffress said, adding that the religion of two of Perry's opponents - Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner - is "a cult."
Huntsman was having none of it, calling the Jeffress statement "a political sideshow."
A Northern Nevada pastor added fuel to the fire last weekend by asserting in a Reno newspaper that "Romney may be a moral candidate, but he's not a Christian." Taking a page from the Jeffress playbook, the Rev. Jim Wallace, pastor of the Risen King Community Church in Sparks, wrote that Mormons aren't Christians "according to the authorities that count - Jesus Christ and the Bible." Thank you, Rev. Wallace; now please shut up and leave politics to the politicians.
Both Huntsman and Romney say that they're Christians, and that's good enough for me. If you say you're a Christian, you probably are one, although I'll make an exception for those who constantly fail to live up to their religious principles. For example, we well remember a Bible-toting president who attended church on Sunday mornings before hooking-up with his young girlfriend later in the day in the Oval Office - the very definition of religious hypocrisy.
I agree with Jon Meacham of Time magazine, who wrote that evangelical preachers like Jeffress and Wallace are "trying to impose a religious test on American politics." He urged voters to base their decisions on the candidates' records and values, and not on their religious beliefs.
So let's leave religion out of politics and debate the issues that really matter: America's sick economy and its declining role in world affairs.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has written a Sunday political column since 1996.