...up to a point.
A couple of years back the late, great Hitch appeared on FOX and made some rather pointed comments concerning Mitt Romney and the painful history of the Mormon/LDS church on the subject of race (in the video below up to about 1 minute in -- I'd appreciate a better link if one exists, without the extra passage from Richard Dawkins).
...which can seem pretty damaging, especially when paired with quotes like this one from Brigham Young himself in 1855: "You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham..."
These issues are not a new political weapon -- they were a rather large factor in the political fizzling of the non-Romneyesque Mormon presidential candidate Mo Udall, who was narrowly passed-over for the Democratic nomination of favor of Jimmy Carter. Shortly after that election, a new revelation was received by the church that re-instated black people into the full range of the faith (closer to the original teachings of Joseph Smith, who had ordained blacks himself).
Yet Hitchens provocatively reminds us: Romney was already a grown man and a major figure in the then-officially-racist church by that time. Shouldn't Romney still be held accountable? A few journalists took up Hitchens's challenge, as you can see here on Meet the Press:
I'm willing to give Romney the benefit of any doubt and say that his response is 100% genuine. That his father supported Dr. King is easy to verify (though he never 'marched' with King), that the change in church dogma moved him to tears of thanks, and that Mitt (and Udall) opposed this church policy -- it doesn't surprise me and frankly it's about the most human moment for Romney on television that I can recall.
But does that mean Romney is out of the ethical woods? Sorry, no.
Besides not being a racist, it means: Romney has a moral sense that is not guided by church dogma or senior church authorities. Most people do -- it's why everyday American Christians (and allied faithful) don't, say, stone adulterers at Club Med or burn witches hanging out at Burning Man.
And there's the rub. It Romney says his choices are guided by faith, and not open to discussion, then... shouldn't Romney himself be held to the same criteria? Because clearly he, and his father, and the Udalls, and many many other politicians, are clearly answering an internal moral voice that's not guided by the scriptures or elders of their churches.
And here's where Hitchens show up again on an end-run from 2007.
A black candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan could expect questions about his faith in the existence of the mad scientist Yakub, creator of the white race, or in the orbiting mother ship visited by the head of the Nation of Islam. What gives Romney an exemption?
The answer should be: nothing. I'm appalled at recent statements by his political opponents that the sources of Romney's views (and actions, should he managed to be elected) would be off-limits for discussion. You should be, too -- especially when other devout believers of the same stripe have such strongly-opposing views, like the laudable Senator Tom Udall, nephew of Mo, who is determined to overturn the Citizens United ruling.
WWJD? Can a corporation be ordained, or not?