The recent flap over possibly, or possibly-not, anti-Mormon comments made by Reverend Al Sharpton is nothing new in Presidential politics. Reverend Sharpton was moved to speak about Mormonism because of Mitt Romney’s White House bid.
Many know that John F. Kennedy had to overcome anti-Catholic feelings to win election in 1960. Less known is that the first major party Catholic nominee was New York Governor Al Smith. Smith was the Democratic candidate in 1928.
Governor Smith’s showing in the South was the worst to that point for a Democrat in the post-Reconstruction era. I’ve sometimes imagined Southern voters of the day sitting at home and figuring out which group of people they disliked most as they decided between Catholic Governor Smith and Herbert Hoover of the party of Lincoln.
The very first Presidential nominating convention in American history was held in 1831 by the Anti-Masonic party. The Anti-Masonic party, as you might suppose, was a party dedicated to limiting the influence of Masons in American life. While Masonry is not a religion, the concept of disliking Masons for being Masons seems close to enough to bias against Catholics and Mormons.
I’m not at all for Mr. Romney in 2008. Still, I hope that when his campaign fails next year Mr. Romney is defeated for his lousy stands on the issues and not because of his faith.