Republican candidate Mitt Romney might be President Barack Obama’s adversary in 2012, but that possibility didn’t hinder Vice President Joe Biden from defending him over his Mormon faith on Friday.
“I find it preposterous that in 2011 we’re debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion ... is a disqualifying provision,” Biden told a crowd of about 500 students at the University of Pittsburgh Friday.
His faith does not disqualify former Mass. Gov. Romney for presidency, Biden said. “It is embarrassing and we should be ashamed, anyone who thinks that way,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
The vice president was at the university to speak on the economy, jobs and student loans, but when a student asked him a question on religion and public life, Biden mentioned Romney. “I think it’s outrageous,” he said, referring to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that showed that 66 percent of Republican primary voters were comfortable with Romney’s Mormon faith while 13 percent were not.
Biden spoke for Romney while admitting that he “may very well be our opponent,” and hours after Obama criticized the presidential hopeful’s plan to balance the federal budget Friday. The plan, the president claimed, “proposes spending cuts that would devastate key middle class programs to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.”
It was perhaps more than politics for Biden, who is Catholic. He recalled that similar questions were raised about the Catholic faith of John F. Kennedy before he was elected in 1960. Biden said his family was proud of Kennedy’s victory, and added that his own faith had no bearing on his public duties.
Romney’s faith became an issue mainly after Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, called Mormonism a “cult” at a Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last month.
After Jeffress’ remarks, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an official statement, saying, “We really don’t want to comment on a statement made at a political event, but those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to mormon.org.”
Several other evangelicals followed suit. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, for example, has said that Mormonism is “antithetical to Christianity” although there are “some Christians in the Mormon church who love the Jesus of the Bible and don’t understand or agree with what their church teaches.” Driscoll also warned that the LDS was making efforts to “bring Mormonism into the center of Christian orthodoxy.”
Some have defended Romney. For example, President of Fuller Theological Seminary Richard J. Mouw recently said the LDS was not a cult. “While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior,” he said in an article on his blog.
However, all have acknowledged that Mormons differ from the mainstream Christian theology.
Among other differences, Mormons reject the Trinity – the belief in one God in three Persons. They also believe Joseph Smith Jr. is the first latter-day prophet who restored the original Christian church in the 19th century in America. They believe the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false. Additionally, Mormons are often criticized for their belief in “divine” books of scripture, aside from the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.