Moderators will hopefully force Mitt Romney to devise actual, non-speaking-point answers to a number of uncomfortable issues during this month's debates, the first of which is tomorrow night — his "47%" remarks are bound to come up, for example — but will Romney ever have to explain exactly how he feels about the way his religion treats women like second class citizens?
Probably not, since Romney rarely discusses his Mormon beliefs beyond saying they're unrelated to his political actions — he once told Tim Russert that the nature of his faith "is not to have church officials tell you what to do" — and, according to The Daily Beast's Stacey Solie, he's never once commented on the role of women in his church.
Solie, who was raised Mormon, thinks that's unacceptable, since Romney has played a leading role in his church — and since Mormons clearly believe women are subordinate. We agree: are we really going to let Romney stay silent on the matter (and/or let his wife, Ann, handle all of the girly stuff) up until Election Day?
Let's be honest: almost all religions historically treat women like shit. But Mormonism seems to keep its people on a particularly short leash. Solie argues that most other faiths don't "ordain every adult and adolescent male, so that the sacred authority extends so powerfully and thoroughly into the household," citing the routine Sunday service sacrament meetings, which are always presided over by men, to the two-year missions that only men are expected to serve:
Women, however, are not expected to serve a mission, and are only encouraged to volunteer for one if they reach the age of 21 and have no marriage opportunities. Even then, those who do go on a mission must address their (younger) male counterparts as "Elders." If a woman on a mission reaches someone who then wants to join the church, she must hand over the task of baptism to a (male) member of the priesthood.
When Mike Wallace asked the now-deceased Gordon B. Hinckley, the former president of the the Mormon church who many Mormons considered to be a living prophet, about whether the church was a "gerontocracy" run by old men, Hinckley smiled and said, "isn't it wonderful?" He said men would always "hold the priesthood" in the church because "God stated that it should be so." Sure, Hinckley wasn't running for President of the United States, but Romney reportedly consulted with him about "whether a run would be good for him and the church" before campaigning in 2008.
Does Romney agree with Hinckley? Maybe not. But we don't know! So why won't the moderators ask him about it?
Some believe we should respect (and therefore ignore) a candidate's religious beliefs, especially if he says he'll be sure to separate Church and State. But, as Solie reminds those of us who've forgotten, Romney's not just a half-assed follower — he's been an active leader of his church and therefore "hasn't simply absorbed and followed church policy in his own life, but has enforced it in the community of believers."
And the Mormon Church has historically played a large role in political activism: Mormons fought against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 90s and, according to the New York Times, played "an extraordinary role" in helping pass Proposition 8 in 2008.
Debate moderators will likely ask Romney whether he agrees with Todd Akin about "legitimate rape." They might ask whether he agrees with his senior campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, who once called women's issues "shiny objects" of distraction. But will they ask whether he supports Mormonism's view of women? They should.