Evangelical leaders worried that Mitt Romney's Mormonism could suppress conservative turnout on Election Day are intensifying appeals for Christians to vote.
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In poll after poll, evangelicals have overwhelmingly said they would back the Republican presidential nominee despite theological differences with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But what had been thought of as a hypothetical question for American evangelicals for years, Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler said recently, is now a reality with this election and is being tested in a contest that will likely be decided by slim margins.
"The fact is that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and many of our people are very, very uncomfortable about voting for a Mormon, as I am. I supported somebody else in the primary. But, hey, we have no option," said Steve Strang, an influential Pentecostal publisher, in a conference call with pastors last week.
Strang was speaking to participants in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an annual challenge to IRS rules on churches' political activity. While arguing that the government regulations had the effect of silencing pastors, he also cited Mormonism as one reason clergy haven't more forcefully urged congregants to vote this year.
"The Mormons are good, God-fearing people in their own way," Strang said. "We have to be sure our people don't stay at home."
Last month, more than two dozen prominent evangelical leaders issued a statement emphasizing the values spelled out in the GOP platform against abortion, gay marriage and other policies were more important than an individual politician's religion. Christians generally do not consider Mormonism part of historic Christianity, although Mormons do.
"Some have tempered their enthusiasm for sound governing principles by their concerns over differences in a candidate's theological doctrine," the letter states, without mentioning Mormonism. "It is time to remind ourselves that civil government is not about a particular theology but rather about public policy."
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SOURCE: The Washington Post