Clergy and Politics: Elevating the National Discussion

Pompano Pastor Calls Mormon Church ‘racist,’ Calls on Romney to Renounce Religion

My letter to the Pastor:

13 March 2012

Dear Reverend Dozier,

We have met at many events in South Florida.  We are both members of the clergy.  I last saw you at a Jewish Federation, pro-Israel clergy committee meeting.  We share friends. We share Broward County as our spiritual home.  I write to you today as a concerned colleague.

Reverend, I know that you have very strong political beliefs.  I do as well.  Being a clergyman with strong political convictions is not easy!  Those of us with strong convictions often put our feet into our mouths.  But, hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and use greater care when speaking about issues that move us deeply.

I write to you tonight to express my concerns over your actions today,  I do so with the hope that you will understand my feelings and, perhaps, take them into consideration the next time you speak from your powerful pulpit.  

Reverend, I was very disappointed to learn about your press conference today in which you asked Governor Romney to renounce the “racist” religion of Mormonism. 

I believe that as as a Reverend, you DO have the right, even the obligation, to ask questions about a candidate and what he or she believes – especially if his or her beliefs appear to teach values that fly in the face of what we as religious, moral American people believe.  But today, you did not ask questions, Reverend.  Today, you asked Governor Romney to quit his “racist religion”.  Such comments do not encourage healthy debate or discussion.  Rather, they evoke anger, distrust and even hatred.  We as clergy need to rise above these emotions.  We need to encourage our communities to talk about religious differences and encourage mutual understanding.  Instead of opening up a very important doorway to what could have been a productive, spiritual, meaningful dialogue among Jews, Blacks, Native Americans and Mormons, your incendiary comments slammed that door shut.  And in a world filled with misunderstandings and faulty perceptions, this is so unfortunate Reverend.  What a missed opportunity!

You stated that Mormonism (the entire religion) is racist and prejudiced against Black, Jews, and Native Americans.

As a Rabbi, I feel I can speak best to your assertion that Mormonism is prejudiced against the Jews.  Certainly there has been tension between the Mormon Church and the Jewish people, most recently over posthumous baptisms of Jews – but this practice has been strongly condemned by Church leaders.  For the most part, Jewish-Mormon relations have been quite good.  In 3 Nephi 29:8 there is a strict prohibition against anti-semitism.  In his work, A Message to Judah from Joseph, Ezra Taft Benson (who was the 13th president of the Mormon Church and the Sectry of Agriculture under President Eisenhower) wrote:

“our affinity toward modern Judah is not prompted merely out of mutual suffering; it is prompted out of a knowledge of our peculiar relationships together—relationships which claim a common heritage. Jeremiah has prophesied that in the latter times ‘the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together.’ (Jer. 3:18.) My prayer is that because of evenings spent together like this one, this prophecy will come to be fulfilled. We need to know more about the Jews, and the Jews ought to know more about the Mormons. When we understand one another, then perhaps you will understand why Ben-Gurion said, ‘There are no people in the world who understand the Jews like the Mormons.'”

Reverend, as you know, Mormons are, for the most part, incredibly pro-Israel and relations between the Jewish community and the Mormon community are, for the most part, good.  (As an aside, I to assume that you would not want a Mormon to serve on the Jewish Federation’s pro-Israel committee that you and I are both a part of – am I correct?)

You also know well that the religions of other candidates have not had a “perfect” history with the Jewish people – so I suggest you use great caution in condemning Mormonism for the way it treated the Jews.  This condemnation opens Pandora’s Box.  In the same way, other religious groups have had a history of excluding or treating differently other minority groups: Blacks, Native-Americans and others.  In Judaism, for example, there is much discussion about how we embrace Black Jews.

It is my understanding that today there are many Black Mormons and the numbers are growing across the globe.  But, again, I don’t claim to be an expert here.  My point to you, Reverend, is that anyone can look at the history of any religion and use its past beliefs and practices to unfairly characterize the modern day religion.  I would argue that most Christian and Jewish denominations have evolved over time and have become more accepting.  At the same time, most religious groups still have boundaries that they are not willing to cross and beliefs that upset members of other faith communities.  This is why dialogue is so important.

Today, Reverend, you used your power and your pulpit to malign another faith.  You have shared extremely potent accusations that cannot be taken back – accusations that your fellow clergymen are left to deal with as we face our own religious communities in the days ahead.  I urge you, as you move forward, to use your words to encourage spiritual dialogue that only elevates the national debate surrounding the 2012 Presidential election.  Ask important questions, Reverend.  Get people talking.  But, please Reverend, do not use your position and your pulpit to drive a wedge between religious communities.  There is enough hatred and division in this world.  We, religious leaders, need to work together to overcome this hatred and division and help our nation grow stronger.

L’Shalom (in peace),

Rabbi Andrew Jacobs

One thought on “Clergy and Politics: Elevating the National Discussion

  1. Very well expressed! The rapidly blurring lines that separate church and state in this country frightens me! Romney’s religious affiliation and beliefs should not even factor into his political race.

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