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May 12th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

With or without Romney, D.C. a surprising Mormon stronghold

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN) – A few hundred Mormons filed into a chapel just outside the Washington Beltway one recent Sunday to hear a somewhat unusual presentation: an Obama administration official recounting his conversion to Mormonism.

“I have never in my life had a more powerful experience than that spiritual moment when the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true,” Larry Echo Hawk told the audience, which stretched back through the spacious sanctuary and into a gymnasium in the rear.

Echo Hawk’s tear-stained testimonial stands out for a couple of reasons: The White House normally doesn’t dispatch senior staff to bare their souls, and Mormons hew heavily Republican. It’s not every day a top Democrat speaks from a pulpit owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet the presentation by Echo Hawk, then head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, is also a perfect symbol of a phenomenon that could culminate in Mitt Romney’s arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year: The nation’s capital has become a Mormon stronghold, with Latter-day Saints playing a big and growing role in the Washington establishment.

The well-dressed crowd gathered for Echo Hawk’s speech was dotted with examples of inside-the-beltway Mormon power.

In one pew sits a Mormon stake president – a regional Mormon leader – who came to Washington to write speeches for Ronald Reagan and now runs a lobbying firm downtown.

Behind him in the elegant but plain sanctuary – Mormon chapels are designed with an eye toward functionality and economy – is a retired executive secretary of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A few pews further back, the special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan sits next to a local Mormon bishop who came to Washington to work for Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and now leads a congressionally chartered foundation.

Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon president if elected, is the son of a Cabinet secretary under Richard Nixon.

“In a Republican administration, there will be even more Mormons here,” whispers the bishop, Lewis Larsen, pointing out prominent Washingtonians around the chapel. “Every Republican administration just loads up with them.”

Regardless of which party controls the White House, Mormonism in Washington has been growing for decades.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

When Larsen arrived in Washington in the early ’80s, there were a just handful of Mormon meetinghouses in northern Virginia, where he lives. Today, there are more than 25, each housing three separate congregations, or wards, as they’re known in the LDS Church.

“There’s been an absolute explosion in Mormon growth inside the beltway,” Larsen says before slipping out of the pew to crank the air conditioning for the swelling crowd.

The LDS Church says there are 13,000 active members within a 10-mile radius of Washington, though the area’s Mormon temple serves a much larger population – 148,000 Latter-day Saints, stretching from parts of South Carolina to New Jersey.

Signs of the local Mormon population boom transcend the walls of the temple and meetinghouses.

Crystal City, a Virginia neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, has become so popular with young Mormons that it’s known as “Little Provo,” after the Utah city that’s home to church-owned Brigham Young University.

Congress now counts 15 Mormon members, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That means the 2% of the country that’s Mormon is slightly overrepresented on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is the highest-placed elected Mormon in Washington.

Even many Latter-day Saints joke about Washington’s “Mormon mafia” – referring to the number of well-placed LDS Church members across town – though they cringe at the thought of being seen as part of some cabal. (Echo Hawk, for his part, left the Obama administration a few weeks after his chapel presentation for a job in the LDS Church hierarchy).

“No one talks about Washington being an Episcopalian stronghold or a Jewish stronghold,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. Talk of “Mormon Washington,” he says, “represents a kind of surprise that people who were thought of as provincial have turned up in sophisticated power positions.”

Bushman and other experts note that, despite Mormons’ growing political power, the official church mostly steers clear of politics. It’s hard to point to federal legislation or a White House initiative that bears distinctly Mormon fingerprints, while it’s easy to do the same for other faiths.

For example, the White House’s recent “compromise” on a rule that would have required religious groups to fund contraception for employees was mostly a reaction to pressure from Roman Catholic bishops.

Nonetheless, Mormon success in Washington is a testament to distinctly Mormon values, shedding light into the heart of one of America’s fastest-growing religions.

And though the official church is mostly apolitical, most rank-and-file Mormons have linked arms with the GOP. Romney’s own political evolution mirrors that trend.

Such forces help explain why Mormons’ beltway power is poised to grow even stronger in coming years, whether or not Romney wins the White House.

‘A ton of Mormon contacts’

For many Washington Mormons, religion plays a key role in explaining why they’re here.

Larsen, who sports a brown comb-over and tortoise shell glasses, arrived in Washington in the early 1980s as an intern for Hatch, also a Mormon.

He landed the internship courtesy of Brigham Young University, his alma mater. The Mormon school owns a four-story dorm on Pennsylvania Avenue, not too far from the White House, which houses 120 student interns each year. It’s the school’s largest such program in the nation.

“Part of our church’s tradition is to be connected with civic life, to make our communities better,” says BYU’s Scott Dunaway, who helps place students on Capitol Hill, at the Smithsonian and other Washington institutions. “We don’t believe in being reclusive.”

It’s a perfect characterization of Larsen. He grew up in Provo, in the shadow of BYU, and wanted to prove he could make it outside of Utah.

“Kids growing up in the LDS Church have been told, ‘Go ye out in the world and preach the gospel of Christ - don’t be afraid to be an example,’ ” Larsen said, sitting in the glass-doored conference room of the foundation he runs on K Street.

“So we are on our missions, converting people to Christianity,” he continued. “And coming to Washington, for me and probably for a lot of people, came out of that interest. We see it as our career, but also we’re going out to preach the word of Christ.”

For Larsen, that usually means correcting misinformation about Mormonism or explaining Mormon beliefs and practices – you really don’t drink coffee, ever? – over lunch with co-workers or at business functions, rather than on-the-job proselytizing.

He learned about integrating work and faith from Hatch. He was initially shocked to discover that the senator prays in his office each morning. Larsen and Hatch developed what the bishop calls a “father-son” relationship, with the intern rising up through the ranks to become Hatch’s chief Washington fundraiser.

“We would go on trips, and I’d quiz him on the plane: Why did the church do this? Why didn’t the church do this?” Larsen said. “He was like a tutor to me.”

Now, as the head of a foundation that educates teachers about the U.S. Constitution, the bishop helps other young Mormons with job leads and introductions. Larsen was appointed to the role by Hatch and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Much of Washington’s Mormon professional network is still anchored by BYU, which operates a handful of big, well-connected alumni groups with major Washington chapters. The most prominent is BYU’s Management Society, a global organization whose biggest chapter is in Washington.

At the chapter’s recent alumni dinner, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the guest of honor. She has strong ties to the Mormon community and has hired Mormons as top aides. Says Larsen: “Condi’s got a ton of Mormon contacts.”

Patrice Pederson also knows how to work a Rolodex. A lifelong political activist, she moved from Utah to Washington last year and soon tapped into BYU’s local network.

Pederson served as the U.S.-based campaign manager for Yeah Samake, a Mormon running for president in the West African nation of Mali.

Samake traveled frequently to the U.S. to raise money and build political support, so Pederson enlisted the help of BYU’s Management Society and other groups to host events for the candidate.

Both in Washington and across the U.S., many Mormons are watching his candidacy.

“Members of the church on Capital Hill were anxious to introduce the candidate to other members of Congress,” says Pederson, sipping an herbal tea (Mormons eschew black leaf teas) in a strip mall Starbucks near her apartment in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It’s cool to have a member of the church running for president in Africa.”

Beyond making connections, many Washington Mormons say the LDS Church provides an ideal proving ground for careers here.

Unlike most churches, it has no professional clergy; from the bishop to the organist, each role is filled by everyday Mormons, most of whom have other day jobs. As a result, Mormons take church leadership roles at an early age, speaking publicly at Sunday services almost as soon they learn to talk.

“My kids grew up in the church, and we get together for three hours on Sundays, and each member needs to get up and speak,” says U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “By the time they graduate, they have all these speaking assignments that other teenagers just don’t have.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, says Mormonism provides ideal training for aspiring politicians.

“For those who grow up in the Mormon church, they are taught skills that allow them to be successful in a tough city like Washington,” says Chaffetz, who converted to Mormonism shortly after college.

Young Mormons also hone leadership skills by serving missions away from home. The missions last from one and half to two years and happen when Mormons are in their late teens and early 20s and often include intensive foreign language training.

“Young Mormons are more formidable in public settings and international settings than others,” says Terryl Givens, a Mormon scholar at the University of Richmond. “Normally you would have to acquire more age and work experience before you feel comfortable and useful at NGOs and think tanks.”

Chaffetz, whose son is serving a mission in Ghana, says the experience is the perfect preparation for political careers.

“They learn rejection early on,” he says. “If you’re going to be in politics, that’s a pretty good attribute.”

Christina Tomlinson served her mission in nonexotic Fresno, California. But working with the Laotian community there, she acquired the foreign language skills that landed her first internship at the U.S. State Department.

“I look back at that and it’s nothing but divine providence,” Tomlinson says one night at an office building-turned-chapel in Crystal City, after a weekly discussion about Mormon teachings. “I would have never made those choices.”

When she arrived at her foreign service orientation in the late 1990s, Tomlinson was surprised to find that a half-dozen of her State Department colleagues were also Mormon. The thriving LDS community at State even runs its own e-mail list server so Latter-day Saints can find each other wherever in the world they’re stationed.

Like former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who used the Mandarin language skills acquired through a Mormon mission to Taiwan to help secure his job as President Barack Obama’s previous ambassador to China, Tomlinson leveraged her mission to get ahead at State, where she now serves as special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I’m basically the chief of staff for the president’s representative charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she e-mailed on a recent plane ride back from the region.

Language skills acquired on a Mormon mission helped Christina Tomlinson get her start at the State Department.

At the point of a bayonet

Like many Mormons, Tomlinson says her professional life is driven by a faith-based patriotism that sounds old-fashioned to modern ears: “I just really wanted to serve my country.”

But that distinctly Mormon patriotism was hard-won. From their very beginning, Mormons had tried to forge a special relationship with Washington. And for decades, they failed.

Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in the 1830s, petitioned the U.S. government to protect his fledgling religious community from the violent persecution it was experiencing, even meeting repeatedly with President Martin Van Buren.

But Washington refused, provoking Smith – who Mormons consider their founding prophet – to run for president himself in 1844. He was assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Illinois well before Election Day.

In the face of such attacks, Mormons fled west, to the territory that’s now Utah. But they continued to seek ties with Washington, dispatching representatives to the capital to lobby for statehood.

Congress refused to grant it. Instead, Uncle Sam disincorporated the LDS Church and sent the U.S. Army to police Mormon territory.

In the eyes of Washington, Latter-day Saints were flouting federal law by practicing polygamy. The feds saw the LDS Church as an undemocratic rival government that threatened Washington’s power.

Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founding prophet, ran for president in 1844 but was killed before Election Day.

Mormons would eventually ban polygamy, paving the way for Utah statehood in 1896. But Congress nonetheless refused to seat the new state’s Mormon senator, who also served as a top church official.

For four years, the U.S. Senate held hearings to grill U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot and other church leaders, alleging that Mormons continued to practice polygamy despite promises to the contrary.

“The political trial was as much a galvanizing cultural moment as was Watergate,” says Kathleen Flake, a scholar of Mormonism at Vanderbilt University in Tenneessee.

When Smoot was eventually seated – after the LDS Church took further steps to stamp out polygamy – he managed to become a Washington powerbroker. He would chair the Senate Finance Committee and act as a presidential adviser.

“He was Mr. Republican,” says Flake. “For a while there, he was the Republican Party.”

Smoot’s unflagging pursuit of legitimacy in Washington, despite the city’s bias against him and his faith, symbolizes what many call a uniquely Mormon appreciation for American civic life. It helps explain the Mormon fascination with Washington to this day.

It may seen counterintuitive, but Mormons’ early exposure to persecution at the hands of other Americans – aided, Mormons say, by the U.S. government – wound up strengthening their patriotic streak.

In the face of attacks, Mormons clung to the U.S. Constitution and its unprecedented guarantee of religious freedom. They distinguished between the document and those charged with implementing it.

Mormon scripture goes so far as to describe the U.S. Constitution as divinely inspired, establishing a unique environment in which Mormonism could emerge.

“Mormons are superpatriots,” says Columbia University’s Bushman. “Joseph Smith said that if the government was doing its job as laid out in the Constitution, it would protect Mormons from their enemies.”

Mormons began to shed their Utah-only siege mentality and fanned out in the early part of the 20th century. Their patriotic streak, which translated into military enlistments and applications for government jobs, led many to Washington.

That wave included J. Willard Marriott, the hotel chain founder, who launched his business career by opening an A&W root beer stand here. He would go on to forge the kind of deep political connections that would help make Willard “Mitt” Romney his namesake.

Washington’s Mormon community got another boost in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower appointed a top church official, Ezra Taft Benson, as his agriculture secretary.

“Mormons took it as a sign of maybe, just maybe, we’re being accepted,” says Flake. “It signified a cultural acceptance of Mormonism. People thought Mormons believed weird things, but also that they were self-reliant, moral and good neighbors.”

As Mormons became more accepted, they became more upwardly mobile, landing in parts of the country that could sustain careers in commerce, academia and government - another reason Washington was a big draw.

By the time there were enough Mormons in the eastern U.S. to justify the construction of the first Mormon temple east of the Mississippi River, the church chose a site just outside Washington.

The temple opened in 1974, shortly after another high-profile Mormon – George Romney, Mitt’s father – left his post as Richard Nixon’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The Washington temple served as a symbol of the triumphant return of Mormonism to the east,” says Givens, the University of Richmond professor. “Mormons left from the point of a bayonet in the 1800s and the temple is this gigantic symbol that says ‘We’re back – and we’re back in the nation’s capital.’ ”

The Mormon temple outside Washington was the first such temple built east of the Mississippi River.

Unlike Mormon meetinghouses, where members meet for Sunday worship, temples are grander buildings reserved for certain rites, such as proxy baptisms for the dead.

To this day, the first monument many Washington visitors see isn’t a federal landmark. It’s the massive Mormon temple, its Georgian marble towers and gold-leafed spires looming above the trees on the Washington Beltway like an otherworldly castle.

The temple houses a J. Willard Marriott-financed mural of Jesus Christ’s second coming, which features a picture of the Washington temple itself in the background.

“Are you implying that the millennium will begin in Washington?” a temple visitor once asked Marriott, referring to Jesus’ return.

Replied Marriott: “What better place is there?”

Good at organizing

These days, the Mormon impulse toward Washington is often as much political as patriotic.

Patrice Pederson - the campaign manager for the Mormon running for president in Mali - made her first foray into politics at 15, hopping the bus from her home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City into town to intern with a Republican candidate for the U.S. House.

“I remember that when Bill Clinton was elected, I wore all black to school that day,” says Pederson, who was in junior high at the time. “I was mourning the death of liberty.”

When then-Vice President Al Gore visited Utah, Pederson protested his speech with a homemade poster that said “Blood, Guts & Gore – Healthcare’94.” (She can’t recall the poster’s exact meaning).

Pederson’s activism as a “total hardcore right-winger” continued into her 20s. She put off college at BYU to start a “pro-family” advocacy group aimed at lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The work brought her to Washington so frequently that she decided to relocate last year: “I had more friends here than in Utah.”

Pederson’s path to D.C. speaks to the growing Mormon/Republican alliance since the 1960s, driven largely by the emergence of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and the rise of the Christian Right.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, Utah became Republican,” says Bushman. “It’s partly about being anti-communist, but it’s also a response to the 1960s and the decay of old-fashioned moral virtues. It’s an anti-1960s movement, and the Republicans seemed to be the party of old-fashioned virtues.”

Pederson’s roommate, Kodie Ruzicka, grew up squarely in that movement, with her mom heading the Utah chapter of Eagle Forum, a conservative Christian group founded by rightwing icon Phyllis Schlafly.

In the 1970s, when the Catholic Schlafly led a successful grassroots campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made gender-based discrimination unconstitutional, she enlisted the help of Mormons.

To its opponents, including the LDS Church, the ERA was the work of radical feminists who wanted to upend traditional gender roles.

Much of Schlafly’s organizing was among evangelicals, and “given the sometimes hostile evangelical line on Mormons, [Schlafly’s] Mormon outreach was kind of revolutionary,” says Ruzicka, who now works at the Justice Department. “But we’re good at organizing, and we have a lot of useful structures for it, so that was useful to her.”

Today, Mormons head Eagle Forum chapters across the West, including California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as Utah.

Bridge-building between Mormons and the conservative movement helps explain the Reagan administration’s push to hire many Mormons into the White House - which further cemented the alliance. That bond continues to lure Mormons to D.C.

Ruzicka, for one, continued in the political footsteps of her mother, arriving in Washington in her mid-20s to lead a nonprofit that promotes safe haven laws, which allow young mothers to legally abandon young children at fire stations.

Beyond hot-button social issues, U.S. Rep. Chaffetz says the Mormon faith engenders support for limited government.

“The church is very adamant about personal responsibility, and for people to voluntarily participate in service,” the Utah Republican says. “There’s this feeling that service is not something that should be mandated by government.”

The LDS Church, for its part, insists it is politically neutral and that it avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a church line. “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” the church’s website says.

Mormon experts say the church’s support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. government’s refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.

And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.

The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, California’s gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.

Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.

Mitt Romney himself embodies the reluctance of Mormon politicians to connect their religion and their public policy positions, in contrast to politicians of other faiths.

That reluctance also appears to be born of anxiety over Americans’ lingering questions and doubts about Mormonism. When Pew asked Americans last year what word they associated with the Mormon faith, the most common response was “cult.”

In recent weeks, Romney’s newfound position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has produced a mix of excitement and worry among Mormons. That’s especially true in Washington, where politically savvy Latter-day Saints send out frequent e-mail round-ups of Mormon media coverage to their LDS networks.

“A lot of us know it’s ultimately a good thing, but it’s hard to feel like it’s a good thing because so much of the publicity is about things you wouldn’t talk about in polite company, like my underwear,” says Pederson, referring to the enduring fascination with Mormon undergarments.

Like many conservatives, Pederson is suspicious of Romney.

“I don’t like his waffling, to put it gently, on life and family issues,” she says. “But if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, hand me the pom-poms. I’ll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club.”

For now, Pederson is working with the National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee to raise money for the Romney effort, even as she makes up her mind about how actively she wants to promote his candidacy.

Some of her calculus is about weighing political reality against her conservative idealism. And some of it is about her next professional move. It’s a very Washington place to be.

Video by CNN photojournalist Jeremy Moorhead

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • DC • Jon Huntsman • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (3,419 Responses)
  1. Reality

    NEWS ALERT !!!

    Putting the kibosh to all religions:

    ONLY FOR NEWCOMERS

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    (PROBABLY- ADVERB- AS CERTAIN AS ONE KNOWS)

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    May 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • PantyRaid

      They all come from virgins and are resurrected, yada yada yada...

      May 13, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • marcindc

      Even more reality dullard....what does it say about some some self important fool who dismisses and announces that a large part of human history, tradition and belief is simply false on a CNN blog. The religions and their leaders you referenced will still be talked about and revered far into the future after you've been forgotten and returned to dust. Your simple utterings will not be remembered by next week. But if your friends at Starbucks think you're a god then good for you!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  2. PantyRaid

    Sounds like some weird spin off of Scientology and Christianity.

    I love aliens.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Weird yes.
      Spin off from Christianity, yes.
      Spin off from Scientology, no. Scientology came after Mormons.

      Weird yes, all contain magical beliefs.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  3. BOb the Prairie Dog

    Anyone who believes in Religion is an idiot. Anyone who believes in Mormonism is double secret idiot.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  4. hiphop

    America is doomed. Since religion is highly irrational, especially at this point in time, that makes the religious leaderhship highly irrational. This is not just being wrong or uninformed on a few items, its being irrational on everything!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  5. Religious Fools!!!!!

    Mormons are a cancer !!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • ohreally

      Yes, lets not forget the other 911 massacre.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  6. BOb the Prairie Dog

    So the Big Cult is scared of the Little Cult taking over their power structure? Either way, we all lose.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  7. marcindc

    Wow the religious bigotry demonstrated by some of these posts is alarming. One could expect that from the athiest crowd who prefer to think of themselves as thier own all knowing gods, which is their right, but the so-calleed Christians who spend their time denigrating another religion because it is not theirs is simply hateful. This new group has just replaced their hoods and cross burnings with internet postings. Mormons don't need to apologize or explain their religion to a hatefilled bigot anymore than the the Jewish, Muslim, Methodist, Baptist, or any other group needs to. The glaring and obvious point from this story is the level of investigation of a candidates religious background during this election that media outlets like CNN ignored for candidates during the last election. Primarily the one who got elected president.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  8. A Good Leader?

    Religion is a false sense of security for answers to the questions of "why are we here," and "what happens to us after we die?" Why don't we stop focusing on things that don't matter, like religion and gay marriage, and start focusing on how to pull our failing country out of the grave. I don't care if the president is islamic, or catholic, if they are a good leader, actually care about the country rather than their own interests, and are not easily corrupted or influenced by people by people that are trying to lobby for their own interest.

    Personally, I can't understand why anyone thinks that business men make good politicians? First of all, business men are interested in money and care not about innovation or progress. To a business man, if they aren't making money, then why care about making progress in society? Second, I cannot understand why everyone thinks that business men are good leaders? Maybe in a business they are good leaders because they only care about profit, and if they decide they want to be generous and care about the people of the business it might make them look better. But OUR COUNTRY IS NOT A BUSINESS! I cannot understand how the media has misled our country so askew into actually believing that business men like Donald Trump or Mitt Romney would actually make good political leaders!!? Open your eyes people! Stop letting the media and other people form and mold your minds, and start thinking for yourself, determining what a good leader is for your own self. Even the words I write in this comment may influence you, I'm saying only agree with me if you have actually done the mental work yourself and came to the same answer as me, rather then just agreeing because it might sound good and fancy.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • marcindc

      The media convinced you that a less than one term Senator, unpublished college professor and community organizer from a corrupt Chicago political machine would be the right choice for President. Go figure!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • rochdoc

      When was success was a bad thing in USA of A? I just checked Romney's profile. He has been in public adminstration from 2002. He was the governor of a liberal state and had many progressive initiatives while controlling the budget tightly, which Obama has not learned so far even after 4 years of administration school in the white house. Either you have it, or you don't . Sorry.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  9. Jan

    Sandy...CNN and Fox news – especially Fox – and Wolf Blitzer are propaganda networks and if everyone one of you could turn off the tv and think for yourselves rather than have Fox, Wolf, and CNN dictate what you should be thinking, you would have a much better society. I have never seen news like this in my life...actually it's not news, it's terrible reporting...should be on a reality series, oh wait it is reality what am I thinking. Shut off your tvs and think for yourselves...you do have brains do you not? Or are you all brainwashed by the propaganda machines...scrary if you are...

    May 13, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  10. rochdoc

    WARNING. CNN IS JUST TRYING TO DIVIDE PEOPLE. CHRISTIANS PLEASE DO NOT FALL FOR THIS TRAP.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • BOb the Prairie Dog

      Yeah! Christians have a monopoly on dividing people in the country. Stay off our turf!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • rochdoc

      our turf!! the "Belief blog" is a joke. It is teh "Turf " of atheists and liberals offcially. That is a good thing, because you can keep brainwashing each other and nobody else needs to be bothered.
      can't face the truth, right?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  11. Dr,Montalvano

    If there is a proof of a fraudulent manufactured religion is the Mormon one. With 25.000 words of the book of Mormon are taken directly from the Old Testament, that can be found in the chapters of Isaiah available in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews: The tribes of Israel in America. A further 2,000 words of the Book of Mormon are taken from the New Testament. As Mark Twain famously referred to it as "chloroform in print"

    May 13, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • marcindc

      So sayeth the self proclaimed religious expert on the word of God Dr, Montalvano...Yawn!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  12. JoJo

    There goes the neighborhood !

    May 13, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 13, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • JoJo

      Pray to stop prejudice, pray to stop war, pray to feed the hungry, pray for acceptance, pray for peace, pray for rain, pray to cloth the naked, pray for guidance, pray for tolerance, pray to human to truly love on another.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Dr,Montalvano

      Actually religion is bad for children and dangerous. Careful with the priests around your neighborhood

      May 13, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Jan

      Are you a moron err I mean mormon? Religion was put in place a many centuries ago to restore order and make people obedient. Now it's a money grab...preachers with expensive homes and rolex watches anyone? You have no clue about Atheism hence your nickname...if you would you would know that what you wrote is not true. You are scared about Atheism about something you know nothing about...let me simplify this for you – it's someone who is not a believer. Now is that so scary? We have the right to our opinions, my husband is Atheist but he doesn't go around shoving this down other people's throats like the Mormons, Catholics which I was, the Baptists – which he was, need I go on? Pray if you want and believe if you want just do not go telling me what I should be doing.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • PantyRaid

      When will you wake up and realize your master lives under the earth!

      Mua hahahaha!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Really?

      Prayer is just saying words in your head. I pray and pray and nothing ever happens. Religion is a sickness that is trying to enslave us all for what, I don't know. I think that we are better to put our eggs into raising our consciousness than in some external god or religion. We are our own Gods. Each and everyone that has a soul.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  14. Jan

    I will reiterate to Popseal and anyone else who is literate and can understand a sentence that Religion has NO business in Politics!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  15. Really?

    Mittens is a Trojan horse by all sense of the word. It is really a fight of Religions trying to take over. We have the Republican Evangelical religion and the Mormon religion. He's barely tolerated by the evangelical right and is a bitter pill but their hatred of Obama is stronger, I think. An elitist so out of touch with real America...what makes him qualified to be President? Money? Or easy control like W Bush?

    May 13, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • rochdoc

      ARE THESE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO WERE SHAKING THEIR HEADS WHEN SOME PEOPLE WERE WORRIED IN 2009 THAT OBAMA IS A MUSLIM, BORN TO A MIUSLIM, RAISED BY MUSLIM FATHER AND NEVER HAD A GOOD STORY TO TELL HOW WHE REALL BECAME A CHRISTIAN OR WHERE HE WAS BAPTIZED AS A CHRISTIAN?
      NOW ROMNEY'S MORMON FAITH IS A REAL BIG PROBLEM AS PER CNN! WHAT A JOKE.
      I SEE THE REASON FOR A BELIEF BLOG NOW!!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  16. Patricksday

    I think the Evangelicals should be more concerned with the Mormon takeover, rather than 3% of the American Population that is Gay they think destroying America.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • pervert alert

      It isn't "gay" it is qu-eer, and it is only about 1%. Real Americans got no use for qu – eers.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Really?

      Santorum just said to use the gay weapon on Obama. What a religious bigoted nut! I'm glad he wasn't picked. Such hatred in that man who claims the Catholic Religion. The bottom line is that religion is bad for America. The evangelical christians will wither away in their intolerance and hatred much like the muslims and catholics. I would not be surprised if we all become Buddhists and Hindus. This nation is sicker than most think and religion plays a large part of that sickness.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  17. ron

    How does a group that has suffered discrimination talk about a moral position while they discriminate about the rights of others. Is that not hypocricy? We know mormonism is a choice not hereditiary, so why do they feel moral in condemning equal rights to any other human regadless of whether the condition is hereditary or simply a blief?

    Does it not make sense that the world should likewise wish to make mormons outcast for their beliefs?

    I was taught that Christ believed in accepting everyone. How do people claim to be good Christians while refusing to accept others as they are?

    Faith, Belief and Opinion are just that.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Jan

      I agree with you! These people call themselves good Christians...but let's face it they are not unfortunately...in their minds they think they are...but the smart ones know otherwise.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Drake

      Really ? You were "taught" that Jesus believed in accepting everyone. Who taught you that ? Have you opened the bible and read for yourself ? Don't say anything for the heck of an argument. You believe in accepting everyone, not Jesus.
      Go read the bible and see to yourself that Jesus was highly selective in whom He "accepted". He did miracles and fed everyone , to demonstrate He was God; which is not accepting.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Really?

      All religious dogma has conflicting rules. Its done on purpose to confuse and keep one under stress. Don't kill but kill love all but hate some. Its all the same everywhere. Its a curse.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Really?

      Drake Dude, Have you even been made aware of the Jesus Myth? Yes there was a person called Jesus, Joshua or what ever but he's not what the Bible says. I would not put all the eggs on the Bible since it has been heavily manipulated mainly by the Roman Catholic Church, they know this and it really scares them. They are terrified of the Real Jesus what he came to do and is doing. That's why all the weak images on the cross and such. Christianity stems from all that. Jesus never said to make a religion just follow him and his message is heavily manipulated and censored by those that think they are in power and control.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  18. ishiibrad

    Church and state ? whatever happened to that ?

    May 13, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • rochdoc

      cnn+ republican + Romney happend.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  19. Dr.Fritz

    There is a long standing secret directive from the Mormon Church to infiltrate and gain influence in any and all places of power, particularly high state and federal offices. Washington DC is a priority, and the Presidency is the top priority. The Moonies (Unification Church), and the Scientologists have similar Directives. It's about POWER for their CULT. Creepy, huh? You bet it is.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • rochdoc

      SO THAT WILL MEAN A MORMON SHOULD NEVER BE THE PRESIDENT!! IT IS JUST SCARY!!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • John

      "There is a long standing secret directive…"

      It's secret, but you just happen to know about it? Those Mormons are really bad at secrets!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • ramsaxon

      The greed for power and influence under the guise of religion is more ancient than than any known single religion. It permeates through big government, big banks, and big education. Their credo of A predator: What's mine is mine and what's yours in mine.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • bg

      Dr. Fritz – you're creepy.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • a mormon

      The idea that there is a "secret directive" to infiltrate and gain positions of influence and political power is completely laughable! I am a Mormon and am actively involved in church affairs and nowhere in church writing or doctrine is there such a "secret directive." The only "agenda" that Mormons have can be easily summed up as 1.) following and living the teachings of Jesus Christ 2.) allowing Christ's glory to work in and change our lives for the better, and then helping our families and friends to have that opportunity.
      I hope that that puts your mind at ease a little bit. Yes, we want everyone to hear about the goodness of God, but we are not going to shove it down others' throats, nor are we going to secretly take over governmental and other positions so that we can coerce people into accepting Christ.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  20. Sandy

    You know this article is really condescending. I have never seen this type of article before on any other religion. I am not a mormon but I respect their right to worship. For years people have been talking about the powerful positions held by Jews and CNN has never ever written an article about that. All of a sudden a Republican presidential nominee is Mormon and here goes CNN alleging that there is a "stronghold" of mormons in Washington. Why doesn't CNN just come out officially that they are campaigning for Obama again. If you are going to write senseless articles like this just get the space of an article and write HOPE and CHANGE over and over again. Some news organization this is.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • rochdoc

      AMEN. But this is not news. this is a blog. The machine to push cr-p down our throat in the name of a "belief" blog. Pathetic!!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
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About this blog

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.