Category: U.S. Constitution

Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism

Mary Barker is a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s campus in Madrid, Spain as well as at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas.  She is also a product of Utah’s Mormon culture, a socio-religious world she understands intimately.

In this piece written for Religion Dispatches she explains how Mitt Romney’s Mormonism shaped his “severe conservatism” but why his faith also provides a foundation for a merciful vision of American community.  The two sides of Mormon spirituality help explain why Utah backed the New Deal and voted Democrat up until the 1950s when the civil rights movement and fear of international communism sparked a retreat into the world of John Birch paranoia that is still evident in the rantings of Glenn Beck.

Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism’s “Other” Legacy

Growing up with Mormon narratives—a two-part memoir and reflection on the good, the very bad, and a dreamed-for future.

By Mary Barker

There are many stories on which a Mormon is raised: narratives of the elect, America and the Constitution, the latter days, and free agency—all of which play a role in Mitt Romney’s “severe” conservatism. The bombshell release of video in which he trumpets his disdain for moochers, and reveals a remarkably casual approach to Middle East politics, all resonate with the Calvinist heritage of Mormon theology, as well as with principal Mormon narratives. But Mormonism also holds the seeds of a decidedly progressive politics—a possible Mormon liberation theology.

Does Romney’s religion matter? It’s a question that has been asked many times this election season. My answer, below, is in two parts, as I journey from End Times theology (the “latter days”) through Mormonism’s radical social and political past.


I grew up at the end of the world. As a Latter-day Saint, I made my debut just before the final curtain. During my youth, rumors circulated about neighbors and boyfriends whose special “patriarchal blessings” prophesied that they would never taste of death. That fairly clearly set the limit on time. The rebellious Sixties just confirmed what the Cold War had already shown us—that we were in a final showdown with evil that would only get worse until the second coming of Jesus which is now. (more…)

Osler: “A Biblical Value in the Constitution”

Barack Obama has rarely used his power to pardon offenders and to commute sentences.  Most likely, he sees little political upside to a public show of mercy to persons who have been defined as criminals.  This issue matters to Friends of Justice in a personal way because we work with death row inmates like Curtis Flowers and Ramsey Muniz, a seventy year-old Latino leader serving a life sentence for a non-existent narcotics conspiracy.

Professor Mark Osler, a Friends of Justice board member who teaches law at the University of St. Thomas, is a leading authority on pardon and commutation issues.  Like me, he wonders why Barack Obama has been so stingy with his pardon pen.

Osler has recently addressed this pressing issue in two articles, a brief Huffington Post piece and a journal-length essay, “A Biblical Value in the Constitution: Mercy, Clemency, Faith, and History” which can be downloaded here.  The longer piece is the best introduction to the “Is America a Christian nation?” debate I have seen.  Here’s his conclusion:

America may not be a “Christian nation,” in the way that some would like, but it remains a “nation of Christians,” where a substantial majority of citizens look to Christian principles and teaching to inform their morality. The effort to see the Constitution as an expressly religious document is doomed by the text of the thing itself. However, that does not mean that Christians such as myself cannot celebrate and promote those parts of the Constitution that reflect and embrace our central values.  Of all the Constitution, the part that most clearly reflects the values of Christ is the pardon clause. It enables a person, the president, to grant mercy. Seen properly as not only a tool of the executive but a lever of God’s will, clemency should be embraced as a profound, important, and regularly used power of the man or woman in whom we invest so much trust.