August 4th, 2011
01:16 PM ET
(CNN)–America is not ready for a Mormon president, according to Christian author Tricia Erickson. On Wednesday she told CNN's Tom Foreman on In the Arena that she believes a practicing Mormon should not be president because of their theological views on the afterlife and governance.
CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi jumped into the fray on the topic with Foreman as well. He said while religious views shape Mormon politicians on a macro level, there is no evidence Mormon politicians have a "bat phone" to Utah and take orders from the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the church is formally known.
While the U.S. Constitution says "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," Republican candidates for the White House Mitt Romney and John Huntsman – who are both Mormons – may have more ground to make up on this issue than previously thought.
Erickson, an ex-Mormon who has long been critical of the church, is not alone in her views.
A June poll by the Quinnipiac Poll found 36% of Americans would be somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with a Mormon president.
A June Gallup poll found 22% of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon candidate.
There may be a silver lining for Mormon candidates though. A July poll by the Public Research Research Institute and Religion News Service, found four of ten Americans know that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon and about half (46%) said they do not know his religious affiliation.
Of the 3,000,000 people who live in Iowa there are only 24,000 LDS members, according to the Deseret News' 2011 Church Almanac. The Deseret News is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, but is independently operated. The percentage breakdown of Mormons living in South Carolina is similar too.
With so few practicing Mormons in those early primary states, voters with questions about the tenets of Mormonism may not have many places to turn to ask impolite questions about the faith, allowing rumors and speculation to go unchallenged.
This year the church has gone on a PR blitz with its campaign, "I'm a Mormon." It's goal is to break Mormon stereotypes and features a diverse group church members like a motorcycle builder, an African American couple, and Latinos. They bought an electronic billboard in Times Square just down the street from the Broadway Show the "Book of Mormon.” The satirical musical features the adventures of buttoned up and earnest white Mormon missionaries in Africa.
"Our Church is known for our efforts to share our message,” Richard G. Hinckley, Executive Director of the Missionary Department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the Belief Blog when the ad went up. “This is one way to get to know us — through the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The campaign is set to expand to more cities this fall but The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday the church would not be buying ads in primary states to avoid the appearance of political meddling. "We know people will draw the wrong conclusions," Michael Otterson a church spokesman told the Journal.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.