Hostile reactions to the “Tea Party” rally organized and promoted by right-wing radio shock jock Glenn Beck refuses to die down. In the broadest sense, Beck has no grounds for complaint. Since the election of President Obama, Beck has promoted himself as a leader of some of the most paranoid and apocalyptic visionaries on the far right. His extremism has eerily echoed the equally bizarre predictions of looming dictatorship that characterized the far left during the Bush Administration. Beck should be called out when he goes off into bizarro world. That’s the price of doing business on Beck’s kind of political fringe.
But reactions to Beck haven’t been limited to just attacking him, his politics, or his political followers. Anti-Mormon religious bigots have taken the opportunity provided by Beck’s prominence to renew their longstanding attacks on all Mormons, labeling them as non-Christian in spite of Mormon’s own sincerely-held belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the status of the Bible as the word of God. Many of those attacks come from evangelical Christians who have a long and tragic history with anti-Mormon persecution, going all the way back to the infamous “Order of Extermination” issued against the Mormons by Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs in 1838.
Truth is, religious prejudice has no legitimate place in the ongoing debate about Beck’s politics. His political arguments (such as they are) rise or fall (they fall, in my opinion) regardless of the outcome of the debate between Mormons and their persecutors. The choice of political commentators to embrace the anti-Mormon cause is, at best, a cheap shot. At worst, it is a red flag of the very bigotry that they would loudly condemn if anyone but Mormons were the target.