Romney’s Black, Mormon Problem

Mitt Romney is reportedly not even trying to court the Black vote and doesn't want to talk about his church's racist past. Will Black Republicans rally for him anyway?

Romney Ignores Black Voters

CALCULATED RISK: Can Mitt Romney win if he ignores Black voters? (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Now that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race, an Obama/Romney contest is all but inevitable. With that inevitability come questions about how the candidates are doing with black voters.

In an article published today,The Daily Beast reported that there are no African-Americans in the “top ranks” of the Romney campaign and his most prominent black endorsement to date may be from Aubrey Fenton, a former Burlington County New Jersey freeholder. The article also said that the two black Republicans in Congress (Tim Scott and Allan West) have yet to endorse the Republican front-runner.

“Romney, running against the first black president, has no chance of winning most African-American voters. But neglecting to court them at all sends the wrong message to swing voters, said political players and observers. Romney’s problem, they said, isn’t that blacks aren’t buying his message but that he hasn’t bothered to sell it to them,” the article said.

Romney Refuses to Address Mormon Race History

Romney may also have a Mormon problem when it comes to African Americans. Last week, at a Wisconsin town hall meeting, there was a “tense moment” between Romney and a Ron Paul supporter who questioned him about his views of inter-racial marriage based on teachings in the Book of Mormon, ABC News reported.

Referring to a passage that links black skin with a Canaanite curse, 28-year-old Bret Hatch asked Romney if he believes it is “a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?” “No,” Romney “responded sternly,” according to ABC News, before turning away from Hatch.

And today, in a strongly worded article at blackamericaweb.com, Michael H. Cottman asks where the “tough questions” from black Republicans are on this issue.

“They should hold Romney’s feet to the fire instead of giving him a free pass. Many blacks view the Mormon church as racist and the African-Americans who make up only one percent of the six million Mormans in the United States are hard-pressed to convince critics otherwise,” said Cottman.

President Obama Will Use Mormon Issue Against Romney

Cottman also said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is predicting that the Obama campaign will use Romney’s Mormon faith against him in the presidential campaign, but President Obama may have his own problems with African Americans. Some, including Thy Black Man staff writer Dr. Boyce Watkins, are asking where Obama’s Black campaign workers are and why African Americans haven’t received more government contracts from the Democratic National Convention, given the fact that an overwhelming majority of them voted for the president in 2008.

“If we can’t figure out exactly and specifically how large numbers of African Americans are benefiting from the success of elected officials that we support, then we may want to reconsider whether or not we are wasting our votes,” said Watkins.

Black Mormons Defend Church

As to the Black Mormon issue, last year New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer met with a group of some 300 black Mormons who defended their faith. He also talked to Harvard scholar Max Perry Mueller, who was writing a dissertation on African-Americans and the Mormon church at the time. Mueller told Oppenheimber that “the church has ‘made a very sincere effort’ to welcome blacks, but that so far few American-born blacks have joined the church.” He also said “‘the idea that Mormons’ were until recently ‘exceptionally exclusionary or racist is probably unfair’” given the racist histories of other religious groups.

Christians Used ‘Curse of Cain’ to Justify Slavery

For more on that, Wikipedia’s article on the “Curse and mark of Cain” is a place to start. It refers to a 1998 Los Angeles Times article that reminds readers that the Mormon church was not alone in connecting the curse of Cain with black skin.

“In the past, Mormons as well as other churches believed that Africans were descendants of the biblical personages Cain and Ham, who, according to the Bible, displeased God and were cursed. … Over time, the curses on Ham and Cain came to be associated with black skin and were used as a justification for slavery–and, in the case of the Mormon church, one rationale for denying its priesthood to blacks.”

What do you think?

Should Mitt Romney address his church’s racist past? And, how would you feel about the Obama campaign using Romney’s faith against him in the campaign?

About the author, Christine A. Scheller

Christine A. Scheller is UrbanFaith's News & Religion editor. In past articles, she has explored her personal journeys in urban ministry and racial diversity. Email her at cascheller@explorationsmedia.com if you have news tips or story ideas.
  1. Why not ask a Kennedy about Vatican II? Or which people are or are not elected Pope? It is absurd to ask or respond to such questions. The same can be said about this Blacks vs. Mormon tangent. It is not an issue that has any relevance to his ability to lead. Romney had no connection to the policy making of the Mormon Church at that time nor does he have any now. He is a member of that church, but he is not responsible for the churches position then or now.

  2. Here is what I think. Ive been an active member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints ( mormons) for 28 years. I served as a full time missionary for two years, attended early morning seminary before high school started for 4 years. I have studied my scriptures and Sunday school manuals for years. I am disgusted at the way the media is blindly perpetuating mis information about my faith. Even if they get parts right, the get other parts wrong or leave important things out. All it would take is a few church visits and interviews with church leaders to get an accurate story but no one does that.
    Joseph Smith, (Mormon founder) hated slavery. He ran for president on an anti slavery platform like 20 years before the civil war. It was pretty much unheard of at the time. Early mormons (my ancestors) worshipped side by side with blacks, something else that was unheard of at the time. Smith ordained more than one black man to the priesthood and they served as missionaries and even had callings of high status and importance in the church. After Smith was murdered, the guy who took his place, Brigham young said blacks couldn’t have the priesthood. We dont really know why but many mormons have disagreed with his decision since he proposed it over a hundred years ago. We don’t believe blacks were less worthy in pre existence. Its never been church doctorine and nevsr taught to members. Someone said it once as an individual opinion and it just stuck but its nevef been taught or accepted by the church. The book of Mormon never talks about blacks. The scripture that people quote about dark skin bein a curse is actually being misrepresented by people. It actually says the curse is that the people were wicked and cast from gods presence or lost favor with God. The curse isnt dark skin, it was a way of keeping the righteous group from the wicked group who was cast from gods presence. It says that if the wicked mixed with the righteous peopke that their children woul carry the curse of being cast from gods presence. Mormons are not racist, period. People just dont know the facts and misrepresent my faith. As far as Romney not having any blacks on his staff, how many black REPUBLICAN politicians are there? Like 5? Lol. Its not like Romney has a lot to chose from. Besides, maybe blacks arent flocking to Romney because they dont want to be labled an uncle tom like my friend Reggie who converted to mormonism. As soon as his family and friends foumd out, he was labled and uncle tom and told hurtful things. So maybe its not the mormons who are the racist ones?? Just a thought.

    • I’m an African/American and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the mid 80’s. At first I was oblivious to a lot of the Church’s doctrines. Then I was challenged to do some homework and to discover for myself some of the Church’s beliefs. What I discovered I found to be unbelievable and unacceptable. For starters, the church didn’t allow African/Americans to hold the Priesthood until about 1978. Discrimination was alive and well in the Church. Then there was the Curse of Cain, almost everyone I spoke to wanted to avoid the issue like the plague. All I was told was to read my scriptures. After cornering an elder, he explained to me that the Curse of Cain was the darkening of the skin; the thickening of the lips and nose. Those who suffer from the Curse of Cain will be the last one’s to enter into heaven. Now the interesting thing is that the bible never clearly defined what the Curse of Cain was. Genesis 4:15 says that God put a mark on Cain. It never says exactly what the mark was. The Church’s belief was that the Curse of Cain is on the decedents of Cain’s ancestors, and that we, African/Americans are the living descendants of Cain.
      That was back in the mid eighties, what the Church believes today I cannot say. All I can say for sure is; yes, that was what they believed then. And as far as the public knowing about Mitt Romney’s spiritual beliefs, I believe that if the public could investigate Obama’s spiritual beliefs, and make an issue over his affiliation with Rev. Wright, then by right they should investigate Romney’s spiritual beliefs as well.

  3. I think Pres. Obama should be very careful about trying to scrutinize another politician’s faith. He may have convinced some voters of his faith position, but not everyone. And I”m not talking about the Muslim thing, either.

    Also, I agree with the quote you used from Watkins. African Americans need to start, NOW, evaluating in some reasonable, cogent fashion, what exactly a candidate/elected official has done for our community. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a politician get the kind of free pass Obama has gotten from blacks. Seems like more people are waking up to that fact now, which is good not only for our community, but for the entire electoral process.

  4. Pingback: Romney’s Black, Mormon Problem | Black Politics on the Web

  5. What an odd criticism, “Your church USED to discriminate 35 years ago”. The entire United States Government used to discriminate racially and legally only 45 years ago. How are Americans generally superior?
    Trying to attack someone for a fact that ceased existence a generatuon ago is very odd.
    Up here in the 21st Century, the Mormons have hindreds of thousands of black members in Africa, Brazil, and Haiti. It has a million membets in Mexico. A third of Tonga and a quarter of Samoa is Mormon. There are a million Mormons in Asia in an arc from Mongolia to Indonesia. Calling Mormons racist is telling blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Polymesians, Asians, and Russians that THEY are somehow racist.

  6. A minor correction that has been perpetuated in virtually all of the media accounts of this incident;

    Mr. Hatch was attempting to read a verse from another book of scripture that is revered by Mormons called “The Pearl of Great Price” Specifically, he was reading from the Book of Moses, chapter 7, verse 8. Most people not familiar with Mormonism generally assume that all doctrine used by us that is not found in the Bible must be from the Book of Mormon. Yet another fallacy perpetuated by the liberal media.

  7. The Book of Mormon no where talks about anyone with African heritage. Just because people in the media keep repeating the idea doesn’t make it true… a little bit of research would go a long way…

  8. Pingback: Going Nuts in Tampa and CNN Has a Major FailPolitical News and Opinion from a Multicultural Point of View | Political News and Opinion from a Multicultural Point of View