The media is suddenly full of stories on Trump’s “Mormon problem.” According to the mainstream media, Trump’s call for “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants in his foreign policy speech kicked open a hornets’ nest of Mormon concerns about “religious tolerance.”
The truth is more simple, as is often the case in politics, and it has nothing to do with religious freedom as practiced by Americans under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
It is an open secret in Washington, D.C. that the Mormon church supports open borders and lax enforcement of immigration laws. Many Mormon politicians have been supporting amnesty and open borders for decades. When I was in Congress I had a confrontation with former Utah Senator Robert Bennett over his sponsorship of an amendment to exempt religious institutions from a Sanctuary City bill establishing penalties for harboring illegal aliens. It turned out he did it at the request of his church leaders. Mormon church support for John McCain in his Arizona Republican primary race is also due in large part to his open borders record and his challenger’s strong criticism of McCain’s hypocrisy on border security.
So, no one should be surprised that Trump’s call to build a wall on the southwest border and his plan for putting the war on Islamist terrorism above open immigration has encountered resistance among some Mormon politicians. What is surprising is the dishonest way even some Republicans have framed that disagreement as opposition to infringement on religious liberty.
ISIS leaders must be rolling in the mosque’s aisles in uncontrolled laughter over the Mormon concern over Muslim immigration, considering that religious liberty is the first casualty wherever radical Islam and Sharia are enforced.
Under Sharia law enforced by orthodox Muslims wherever they have the power to do so, religious liberty is defined as giving Christians and Jews and other “infidels” a choice: either convert to Islam, pay the “Jizya” tax, or die. That is religious liberty under Islam, and it bears no resemblance to the religious liberty guaranteed by the US Constitution.
Trump is advocating a new policy of vigorous, effective screening of Muslim refugees and immigrants to identify likely Islamist terrorists and bar their admission to our country. So, how did a ban on admission of likely terrorists become a war on religious liberty? Once you find a good answer to that question, my friends, you will have discovered the answer to the riddle of political correctness run amok.
Immigration restrictions based on national security concerns are not new. Maybe liberals and progressives do not want to remember it, but during the cold war against international Communism, America had laws restricting immigration from the Soviet Union and a dozen communist nations. Why is a ban on admission of Islamist terrorists any different?
Why is it suddenly an affront to religious liberty to say with Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact”? Justice Jackson’s famous phrase was in dissent to a 1949 Supreme Court ruling striking down a Chicago ordinance prohibiting incitement to riot. But the same common sense sentiment was expressed by a Supreme Court judge appointed by President John Kennedy, Arthur Goldberg, when he said in 1962, “Congress has broad power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to enact legislation for the regulation of foreign affairs. Latitude in this area is necessary to ensure effectuation of this indispensable function of government.”
The truth is that not only does the Constitution NOT prohibit immigration restrictions on persons holding beliefs hostile to public safety and national security, there are several US Supreme Court decisions upholding Congress’s and the President’s powers to put the nation’s safety and security ahead of any alleged universal right of foreign nationals to enter the United States. Suggestions to the contrary, whether expressed by Sharia advocate Khizr Khan addressing the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia or Mormon Senator Jeff Flake stirring up opposition to Donald trump in Arizona, is pure demagoguery and ought to be called by its right name no matter where it occurs.
A clear-eyed look at the current presidential campaign suggests to me that the extent of Mormon opposition to Donald Trump is being exaggerated by the hostile media and some “Never Trump” opponents. The recent announcement by an ex-CIA agent of the Mormon faith, Evan McMullin, that he will wage a candidacy as an independent candidate for president, is not generating a tidal wave of support in Utah or anyplace else.
Nonetheless, the statements of some Mormon leaders raising the specter of religious persecution if immigration of radical Muslims is banned, is poisonous to intelligent debate over immigration policy. But then again, this is not new: the open borders lobby has never wanted to allow intelligent debate on the issue and has always tried to slander proponents of border controls.
Governor Herbert of Utah has been pouring kerosene on the smoldering fire by trying to link immigration policy to religious persecution. The former LDS missionary recently said, “I am the governor of a state that was settled by religious exiles who withstood persecution after persecution, including an extermination order from another state’s governor. In Utah, the First Amendment still matters. That will not change so long as I remain governor.”
The clear implication in the Governor’s message is that Trump’s plan to bar Islamist jihadists from entering our country is somehow akin to proposals 150 years ago to bar Mormon immigration. Most likely, the average Mormon citizen in Utah or Nevada or Ohio will make that same connection when it comes to Muslim jihadists: No, barring jihadists is not religious persecution.
Indeed, most Mormon Republicans are lining up in support of Trump despite the frenzied effort to slander him as proposing religious persecution. Utah Governor Herbert, the Utah state Republican party chairman, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have all said they intend to vote for Trump. Out west, only Nevada Senator Dean Heller is waging an open jihad against Trump.
Will the “Mormon issue” be a major obstacle for Trump’s campaign? The answer is, not unless sheer demagoguery triumphs over common sense. Mormons worship the US Constitution and its guarantee of religious liberty. Radical Islam is the number one enemy of religious liberty in the world today. Probably 99% of Mormon citizens and voters can make that logical connection — even while their church leadership suffers an episode of moral incoherence.