Live by the sword …

If Mitt Romney thinks that atheists are unfit to hold office, then he has no kick coming if someone else says that Mormons are unfit to hold office.

I’ve been a vocal critic of people (e.g. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus) who try to make Mitt Romney’s Mormonism a political issue against him.

Yes, in doctrinal terms Mormonism differs more from Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy than those traditions differ from one another, to the point that an outsider classifying the world’s religions would have to think hard about whether to classify Mormonism as “Christian.” But no, that’s not a legitimate reason to vote against Romney.

To the extent that the specifically American political tradition is defined by the Constitution, which explicitly bars any religious test for office, using a candidate’s religion against him is un-American (though it can’t properly be said to be un-Constitutional, since the Constitution bars a statutory “test” but doesn’t dictate the behavior of voters or of campaigns).

Still, I have to agree with Atrios: Having said that “we need to have a person of faith lead the country” &#8212 in effect, proposing a voter-operated religious test that would bar atheists, agnostics, and skeptics &#8212 Romney has no kick coming when someone else wants to bar Mormons.

And Romney gets extra points off for having his spokesgeek denounce “other camps” for raising the issue when the fliers in question seem to have come from a random bunch of whackos.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: