Rodney D. Decker, dean of Southern Utah University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of political science, disagrees with the senators' assessment of the prejudice against Romney's religion.Decker
has not seen any evidence of the mainstream media using Romney's religion to target his
said the media will often focus on what they perceive as newsworthy and those things often tend to be negative rather than positive.He
also added that negative topics are often what the public wants to hear.Thus negativity - such as stories focusing on those who question Romney's Christianity - sells.Decker
said, however, that he
thinks there is more of an emphasis on a candidate's religion within the Republican Party as opposed to the Democratic Party, where it is not as much of an issue.
In general, Decker
acknowledged the effects of religion on public policy but mentioned that the Founding Fathers saw a need to separate church and state.Yet he
also said it is relevant to ask if a candidate for the nation's top political office will be driven entirely by religious beliefs or if he
will be tolerant to different points of view.
Romney's religion is nothing new to most Utahns, the bulk of whom share his
beliefs.Many of Utah's elected officials are members of the LDS church
thinks membership in the LDS church
does have an effect on elections in Utah, especially at the local level.Although Decker
does not believe there is any sort of organized directive from church headquarters in regard to voting for LDS candidates, he
does think there are influences at the local level when voters are aware of a candidate's religion.
"I think it's unfortunate, but I think it's a reality," Decker
"At times they tend to associate Republicanism and Mormonism together," Decker
said of some local leaders.
does not think this is a belief supported by official church policy but he
said many local church leaders are also Republican.
In another of its letters to LDS congregations regarding political involvement, LDS leadership said that principles compatible with LDS beliefs could be found in all major political parties.Some Utahns viewed this as church leaders saying it is possible for Democrats to still be good members of the LDS church
.Decker said being a member of the LDS church may be helpful to Democratic candidates.
But too often Utahns associate the positions of the national Democratic Party with the local Democrats, which can skew the local elections, he
did not know if Matheson's religion helped the congressman or not, but Decker
does not think it could have hurt him.Decker
credited Matheson's success to connecting with voters and addressing issues important to his