Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (II)

IN MY LAST POST, I pointed out that Mitt Romney, as an active, involved member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a liar. The lie was that he "came to" a belief in the wrongness of homosexuality and rightness of the anti-abortion cause. I asserted that no Mormon could possibly climb to the dizzying heights of Church leadership positions as he had and believe that homosexuality was not sinful and that abortion was anything short of murder. The only answer I could deduce from Romney's Mitt-flopping on these important issues is that when he was asked to choose between his private beliefs and his public actions, Mitt choose to lie, and he did it for the pathetic reason of personal and political gain.

Most men would much rather be found on God's right hand at the last day than be elected president of the United States, if it meant denying their faith. This is as it should be. An oath to God certainly trumps prior agreements made between men. And if a man makes an oath to God, and later makes another, conflicting agreement with man, the previous oath to God should take precedence. In the words of Thomas More, a man who would break a solemn oath "needn't hope to find himself again."

Fortunately, such conflicts are rare. In modern life, oaths exist almost exclusively in the church, the legal system, and politics. Occasionally, there are conflicts between man-made agreements and covenants with God. Some Americans were disturbed by the religion of 1960 presidential candidate John Kennedy, which hinted at a conflict between his duties as a Catholic and his duties as president. He responded that if elected, he would be under no obligation to obey the Pope. And of course that was true, for lay Catholics make no such oath of obedience to the Holy See.

But there is such an oath in Mormonism, and it is undertaken in the LDS temple ceremony, commonly called the "endowment," a term used in the sense of valuable knowledge granted to mortals by God. The knowledge is communicated in an allegorical ritual detailing mankind's journey from a pre-earth life with God himself, to mortality here on earth, where we are to be tested to see if we will be obedient to God's laws, thus enabling us to return to His presence after death. At each stage in the endowment, participants are required to make sacred covenants of obedience to such laws, including the Law of Sacrifice (the Mosaic Law), the Law of the Gospel (Christ's teachings), the Law of Chastity, and finally and ultimately, the Law of Consecration.

While much of the endowment is shrouded in mystery due to a covenant to not discuss it outside the temple itself, the covenants themselves are not mysterious; they are simple, straight-forward agreements made with God designed to hold the participant to high standards of moral and ethical behavior. Temple-going Mormons take these covenants very seriously; indeed until recently the endowment covenants were made under penalty of death should they be revealed to the outside world. Though that penalty was excised from the endowment in 1990, participants are still reminded that breaking or revealing those covenants will bring upon them the wrath of God. Yet there is nothing in the endowment covenants that conflicts with the actions of any patriotic American citizen. Most of the covenants originate in the Bible, encouraging Mormons to be "honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous," and to do "good to all men."

A covenant, by definition, is more than an agreement between men; it is a solemn oath made between man and God. In our secular society, such covenants are reserved for the courts, oaths of citizenship, and certain public offices. When a foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen, he makes a sacred covenent:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

A greater obligation is required, and a higher oath is taken, when a person becomes the president of the United States. The president-elect places his left hand on the Bible and raises his right hand and says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The question in this presidential election cycle is whether Mitt Romney can, in good faith, take such an oath. The difficulty arises because Romney has sworn ultimate allegience to something other than the Constitution. In the LDS temple endowment, which Romney undertook over forty years ago, he raised his right arm and covenanted "before God, angels, and these witnesses" to obey the Law of Consecration:

You . . . consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

Romney's oath wasn't made simply to God; it was made specifically to the Mormon church. And it wasn't simply to participate, obey the teachings, or financially support the Church; it was to consecrate ("set apart") everything he has, not to God in general terms, but specifically to the LDS church. The wording of the oath puts it in direct conflict with the presidential oath: his first and last fealty is to the LDS church, not to the Constitution of the United States.

We've already seen the how Mitt Romney lies to protect his personal beliefs. Can there be any doubt that should a real conflict arise, President Romney will choose the Mormon church over the United States of America?

Yet he lied again. In a recent speech, he said, "When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God." (emphasis mine). He continued, "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." He concluded by saying, "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest."

Yet clearly, to temple-going Mormons, the Oath of Office of the President is not their highest promise to God. And while we do not know yet what kind of influence the LDS church will have on a President Romney, still he has made a solemn covenant to obey them and to place the interests of the LDS church above all else. Finally, it is an outright lie that a believing Mormon will separate the affairs of religion and politics. In the early 1970s, the LDS church entered the political sphere in a very public way to oppose the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Though in recent years its public advocacy has been more muted, its philosophy has not materially changed since Joseph Smith ran for president in 1844 on a platform of a "theocratic democracy," with the goal of a U.S. government informed and influenced by Biblical and LDS theology.

Again, Mitt has proven that he will say anything to get elected. In the past he has lied about his views on homosexuality and abortion. And, as if that were not enough, he is now lying about the most serious, sacred oath an American can take, the Oath of Office of the President of the United States.

I hope American voters will not force Mitt Romney to choose between his church and our nation.

Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (I)

"When lying to someone, look him straight in the eye."
-- Mason Cooley

Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President, is in a pickle. His qualifications to lead are being overlooked due to questions about his religion and his "Mitt-flopping" on key issues, including some very important to the Republican base, namely, gay marriage and abortion. Mike Huckabee's rise to the first tier of candidates has placed the religious differences between evangelical Christianity (40% of the Iowa Republican caucus voters) and Mormonism in sharp contrast. The media, of course, loves a good fight, and has fomented all those differences, up to and including the highlighting of an obscure LDS doctrine that Christ and Satan were brothers in their pre-earth lives.

These distinctions have created concern for many evangelicals, which eschew Mormon notions of Biblical errancy and the eternal nature of the soul. For Christians, humans are objects created by God for His own purposes; for Mormons, humans are the literal children of deity, and, in the words of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon, "co-eternal with God."

Though this makes for an interesting theological discussion, neither Romney nor Huckabee are running for Pastor-in-Chief. I find myself bored discussing the doctrines of Mormonism -- I'm much more interested in knowing whether Mitt Romney believes in anything beyond his own political aspirations.

Mitt Romney was raised a life-long Mormon. As such, he was expected to follow a path of moral rectitude, including the payment of tithing, dealing honestly with others, and living a chaste life. I gather Mr. Romney adhered to all these requirements, because at age nineteen he entered missionary service for the Church in France and later married his high school sweetheart, Ann, in an LDS temple. Only Mormons who abide by the most stringent requirements of their faith are allowed entry into the temples.

If this were all there were to it, Romney, by his faithfulness to the strict Mormon moral code, would be exactly the kind of person qualified to lead: his walk would echo his talk and we could confide that he was a person of integrity. He might be wrong, but at least he would not lie to us.

But the Devil is also in the details, and Romney has fallen well below the standards not only of his own faith, but of trust in general. While governor of Massachusetts, he promoted same sex marriage and ran as a pro-choice candidate. He now maintains that at that time his beliefs were "in flux" about these two controversial subjects, but is that truthful? As an LDS missionary, he was required to teach people that homosexuality was sinful, and that human life was sacred. Later, as an LDS Bishop and Stake President (akin to a Catholic parish priest and an archbishop, respectively), he was required to enforce Church standards of behavior upon erring members, with consequences for misconduct up to and including excommunication. So it is highly unlikely that Romney finally "came to" believe in the wrongfulness of homosexuality and abortion. In his entire life, he'd never been taught differently by anyone in his church, and he had acted as an officiator of the Church to implement those same beliefs and standards upon members over which he had a stewardship.

The truth, then, is one of the following: If Romney is an honest person who did not lie in the Church interviews, then he has always been anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion, or he would not have been allowed to serve as a missionary, bishop, or stake president. But if he lied during those interviews, then he is a man who would lie to God himself. Either way bodes ill for Romney the man and for the United States as a nation, for he is clearly capable of lying either to move ahead in religious circles (publicly subscribing to doctrines with which he did not agree) or to advance in political circles (stating that he was pro-choice and unopposed to gay marriage when he was Massachusetts governor). I tend to believe Romney would rather lie to voters than to God, so I subscribe to the first premise: he has always been in line with Mormon belief: anti-gay and pro-life, but in the past has tempered these views to obtain political power, just as he is "refining" them yet again in his quest for ultimate political power: the presidency of the United States.

Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states in the union, and Romney would have never been elected governor had he not disavowed his core personal beliefs, so he did. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that same-sex "marriages" were protected by the Massachusetts constitution, Romney ordered Justices of the Peace to perform same-sex marriages or be fired. He did not have to do this as the Court was simply advising the legislature to codify its opinion on changing the marriage statutes. Romney was not bound to enforce same-sex marriages prior to such legislative action, yet he did.

On abortion, his personal beliefs also likely took a back seat to his political aspirations: In a 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate against Teddy Kennedy. During a televised debate, Romney declared: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for twenty years, we should sustain and support it."

If this is the case, then in 1970, just a couple of years after his LDS mission, and mere months after he was married in the Mormon temple, he changed his mind, took views contrary to Mormon belief and practice, and embraced Roe vs. Wade. This strains credibility, given his continued involvement with Mormonism, both as a member and as a leader in the faith.

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."
-- Mitt Romney

NEXT: The real reason Mitt Romney cannot (and should not) be president.

The Looming Tower & The Perfect Storm (III)

OVER THE LAST TWO POSTS, I've chronicled the remarkable events leading up to 9/11 from Lawrence Wright's work The Looming Tower. In this final post, I'll continue the "highlighter worthy" events of the eve of the terrorist attack. I'm sure many of these events will be a surprise to the reader, as they were to me.
  • Most men who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. Alone, alienated, and often far from his family, the exile turned to the mosque where he found companionship and the consolation of religion. Islam was more than a faith--it was an identity. (344)
  • The Hamburg Cell, the nucleus of what would become the co-conspirators of 9/11, were able to fly below the authorities' radar. The new Germany had enshrined tolerance into its constitution, including the most openhanded political asylum policy in the world. In recoiling from its extremist past, Germany inadvertently became the host of a new totalitarian movement. (345)
  • Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 masterminds, stated in his will: "No pregnant woman or disbelievers should walk in my funeral or ever visit my grave. No woman should ask forgiveness of me. Those who will wash my body should wear gloves so that they do not touch my genitals." The anger this statement directs at women and its horror of sexual contact invites the thought that Atta's turn to terror had as much to do with his own conflicted sexuality as it did with the clash of civilizations. (347) A fatwa was ordered on the Islamic journalist who dared suggest these young men would not have carried out 9/11 if they'd had a healthy sexual life.
  • Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khaled al-Mihdhar, both 9/11 conspirators, easily obtained U.S. visas because they were Saudi citizens. (349)
  • The CIA knew about Hamzi and Mihdhar withheld this information from other governmental agencies, fearing prosecutions resulting from specific intelligence might compromise its relationship with foreign intelligence services, notwithstanding there were safeguards to protect confidential information, and the FBI worked routinely with the agency on similar operations. May in the CIA feared, however, that the FBI was too blundering and indiscriminate to be trusted with sensitive intelligence. (352). Such turf-protection was the key weakness of American foreign intelligence before 9/11. I fear nothing has changed.
  • Ramzi Yousef, mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was being flown past the towers on his way to stand trial. One of the agents pointed and said, "See, they're still standing." Yousef said, "They wouldn't be if we had more money." (357) This is for those who think President Bush is responsible for all Islamic terrorism against the west. That was back in 1993, when the nation was suffering under the laconic and narcissistic Bill Clinton.
  • On October 12, 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was bombed by an explosives-laden skiff in the Aden, Yemen, harbor. OBL later said, "The destroyer represented the capital of the West, and the small boat represented Mohammed." (361) For those who do not believe Islamofascism is religious in nature.
  • OBL was born in Yemen, in an area known as the "Hadramout," which means "death has come." (364)
  • Yemeni authorities arrested Fahd al-Quso, who was supposed to videotape the Cole bombing, but overslept. Quso admitted that he had delivered money to one of his co-conspirators, Khallad, in Bangkok. Khallad was linked to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The FBI sent Khallad's photo to the CIA, asking about this connection. The CIA withheld information about the Malaysia meeting of Khallad and Quso, which hampered the pursuit of judstice in the death of 17 American sailors. (372). If this information had been given the FBI, they could have found Hamzi and Mihdhar in the U.S., and 9/11 might have been prevented!
  • Bill Clinton did nothing in response to the Cole bombing, as it came in the midst of his Monica problems and the upcoming presidential election. OBL's belief in American timidity had once again been proven. (374)
  • In April 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan Northern Alliance commander and enemy of the Taliban, told American officials in Paris that he had learned of al-Qaeda's intent to perform a terrorist act against the U.S. that would be vastly greater than the bombings of the American embassies in Africa. (381)
  • Bill Clinton's Justice Department reversed intelligence policy in 1995. The new policy regulated the exchange of information between FBI agents and criminal prosecutors, but not among the agents themselves. FBI headquarters misinterpreted the policy, turning it into a straitjacket for its own investigators. (387)
  • In July, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams wrote headquarters, saying, "The purpose of this communication is to advise the bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by OBL to send students to the U.S. to attend civil aviation universities and colleges." His warning was ignored. (395)
  • In mid-August, a flight school in Minnesota expressed concern to the FBI about a student, Zacarias Moussaoui, who asked about NYC flight patterns and whether the cockpit door could be opened during flight. The INS arrested him, but FBI headquarters would not allow agents to examine Moussaoui's laptop computer because the agents could not show "probable cause" for their search. (396) One wonders what probable cause would have sufficed? A cartoon showing a plane striking the towers?
  • If the FBI had been allowed access to the laptop, it would have discovered a letter of employment from Infocus Tech, which was signed by Yazid Sufaat, whose name meant nothing to the FBI, but the CIA knew Sufaat was at the conspirator's meeting in Malaysia. The FBI was not guiltless, either. It failed to give terrorism czar Dick Clarke any of the above information. (397)
  • On September 9, Ahmed Shah Massoud was assassinated by two men posing as Arab TV journalists. His murder was ordered by OBL. (401)
  • John O'Neill, the former FBI chief of counterterrorism and head of security for the World Trade Center for just three weeks, was killed in the attack when he went back inside the tower to help with the evacuation. (407)
  • Following the attack, America prepared to invade Afghanistan in pursuit of OBL, who escaped into Pakistan. (420)
9/11 was a devilish conjunction of evil intent, American hubris, and sheer luck. Though I do not believe it will happen again in the same way (airplanes used as bombs), I have no doubt that it will happen again. Most likely, a dirty bomb in a container shipment in a southern California harbor, which when detonated will kill thousands in this densely-populated area. The winds will then carry the radioactivity inland, sickening and killing tens of thousands more. Since at present U.S.Customs physically inspects only 6% of all incoming container cargo, this scenario has a high likelihood of success. God help us if we refuse to help ourselves.