Will the Utah Compact Derail Mitt Romney’s Campaign?

By Former Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson

One of the biggest obstacles Mitt Romney faced when he ran for President in 2008 was the fear that, if elected, he would take orders from the President of his Church. Like the Catholic Jack Kennedy in his 1960 race for the presidency, Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), had to overcome the uneasy suspicion that the head of his church would dictate public policy. To dispel such fears, Romney gave his memorable “Faith in America” speech in which he stated:

“Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

“As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

“As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States….We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.”

Romney’s speech was generally well received, and it appeared that he had put the matter to rest. Unfortunately, the question of LDS Church influence has roared to life again in 2011, with indications that it could affect the 2012 elections.

It began in November, 2010, when a group of Utah businessmen, politicians, newspaper publishers, and various church denominations launched a list of principles they felt should guide immigration policy. They called it the Utah Compact. Although the LDS Church likely received considerable pressure to sign on to the Compact, they declined to do so. However, they DID issue a news release stating that they endorsed the principles of the Compact. In addition, a few prominent church employees signed the Compact, which added to the perception that the Church endorsed it.

The Compact was filled with vague, benevolent statements that implied that amnesty is the solution to our immigration ills. Many members of the LDS Church then embraced amnesty because they thought their church did.

The first test of the Compact came in the 2011 legislative session in Utah. Roughly 80 percent of the members of the Utah legislature are also members of the LDS Church. Church employees roamed the halls of the Utah capitol lobbying Representatives and Senators for their vote in favor of immigration bills pushed by the supporters of the Utah Compact. Refusal to support those bills was viewed as rejection of the Compact and, by extension, disobedience to the President of the LDS Church. The vote on these immigration bills became a test of the LDS legislators’ allegiance to their Church. LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson never personally lobbied for the bills, but the Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News, blared its support for both the Compact and the immigration bills, and employees from the Church Public Communications office continued to lobby every day. The message heard by Utah’s LDS legislators was: “If you don’t vote for these bills, you will be disobeying the President of the Church.”

In addition to being a test of one’s allegiance to the LDS Church, the Utah votes were also a test of the LDS legislators’ fidelity to their oath of office. Many of the legislators did not support the proposed immigration bills, but they felt pressured to comply with what they perceived to be the wishes of their church. The choice was between making a correct policy decision or obeying the LDS Church. In the end, many of the Utah legislators caved in. When faced with a clear choice between performing their duties as elected officials or obeying the perceived dictates of the LDS Church, they threw their oath of office out the window and voted the way they thought their Church leaders expected. It wasn’t the first time that Utah legislators changed their votes to conform to the wishes of the LDS Church contrary to their own best instincts. So much for Mitt Romney’s insistence that an elected official would never be influenced by the leaders of the LDS Church. The Left has correctly perceived that obedience to Church leaders is an important value among members of the LDS Church, and they have figured out how to use that to manipulate LDS elected officials.

The image of [some] Utah legislators scurrying about, wringing their hands, and holding their breath as they watched for a sign from church leaders on how to vote is even more sickening when one realizes that it was left-wing, radical, Marxist groups that were pushing the immigration bills (and the Utah Compact) behind the scenes. But things got infinitely worse when the Compact promoters went national.

In early 2011, community organizers fanned across the country laying the groundwork for Compacts in other states. In Arizona, advocates of the Utah Compact launched a recall campaign against the LDS State Senate President, Russell Pearce, the hero of the nation on immigration reform and border security. A 2010 Pearce bill (SB1070) had created hysteria on the Left when it triggered a nationwide rush for similar enforcement bills in other state legislatures. As the author of SB1070 and a prominent national leader on immigration enforcement, Pearce became the bull’s-eye in the target of Leftist radicals who organized to take him out. Pearce’s opponents ran a nasty but effective campaign based on character assassination, voter recruitment, and alienation of the many LDS voters in Pearce’s Mesa, Arizona, legislative district.

The opponents announced their strategy early in the recall campaign. DeeDee Blase, head of Arizona’s Somos Republicans, an open borders advocacy group, said: “The biggest win with regard to our efforts is getting a special supporter who is a devout member and a member of the high council of the Mormon Church. We have scheduled lectures that will be specifically aimed to members of the LDS community as well as the business community. We know that Mesa has a Mormon stronghold, and in order for us to have an overall effective campaign, we must win over the Mormon community. It is imperative for them to know that Russell Pearce (a member of the LDS community) refuses to listen to the Mormon Prophet, and he refused to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”

The accusation was a lie. Pearce is a strong constitutionalist and a devout and active member of the LDS Church. Most important, suggesting that he “refused to listen to the Mormon Prophet” was a trap. If he protested that he was obedient to the prophet and supported the Utah Compact (which was a call for amnesty), he was dishonoring his oath of office and violating the wishes of many of his constituents, not to mention his own knowledge of the crisis on our borders. If he proclaimed that he was NOT dictated to by the leaders of his Church, he appeared to be disobedient to his church leaders, which would sully him in the eyes of many of the LDS voters in his district, who view obedience to church leaders as a standard of honor. There is no way for an LDS candidate for office to defend himself against such an accusation.

Blase’s accusation revealed that the recall campaign would promote a religious test for holding office. “Obey the Mormon Church or you’re not qualified for election.” Pearce was repeatedly accused of being disobedient to his Church leaders because of his strong views on immigration. His opponent was portrayed as a choir boy who obeyed the prophet. It cost Pearce votes among LDS voters.

Blame for this dilemma goes not to the Marxist radicals who ran the campaign against Pearce or even to the LDS Church hierarchy, which had lobbied hard for the Utah immigration bills and seemed to support the Utah Compact. The blame goes entirely to the members of the LDS Church in Pearce’s legislative district who swallowed the false argument that Pearce’s highest duty as an elected official was to satisfy the wishes of the LDS Church.

Some Mesa LDS businessmen who support amnesty joined forces with the radical Left to take Senator Pearce down. One of these men, Daryl Williams, an LDS attorney who did not live in Pearce’s district but actively campaigned against him, gave firesides (an LDS cottage meeting) and seminars on the Utah Compact, never missing a chance to say that Senator Pearce was violating church doctrine. In a promo for one of his firesides, Williams proclaimed:

“Russell Pearce, the chief proponent of Arizona’s immigration laws is, like me, a Mormon. His views, however, do not reflect the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church. Indeed, Mr. Pearce’s views are inconsistent with the official position of his church.” (See here.)

Williams’ message was that Senator Pearce should shut up and do what the President of the LDS Church wanted, regardless of his oath of office or his duty to his constituents.

In one interview, Williams stated, “I believe that Mr. Pearce’s position [to enforce the law against illegal immigrants] is inconsistent with policy statements that have been promulgated by the church.” He added, “I personally do not think that you could be a faithful Christian or faithful Mormon and take such … positions ….”[1]

Williams promoted the religious test throughout the campaign. In an Op Ed in one of Arizona’s major papers, Williams declared, “Mormons and other Christians who advocate sealing the borders and the mass deportation of immigrants are out of sync with the official position of the Mormon Church.”[2] According to Williams, a candidate does not deserve to hold public office unless he stays “in sync” with the “official position of the Mormon Church.”

Williams, an attorney who should know better, has created a new standard for members of the LDS Church who want to run for office. The standard is that they must meet a religious test in order to run. The test is obedience to the leaders of the LDS Church. Such a standard is unconstitutional, of course. It is also the death knell for LDS candidates for office. Outside of Utah, Mormons are a distinct minority group. They cannot get elected with the votes of only LDS Church members. They must appeal to a broad base of voters of all faiths, and they must be able to honestly assure the public that their allegiance is to the Constitution, not to the policies of their Church.

Almost singlehandedly, Daryl Williams created an image of LDS elected officials bowing to the wishes of the LDS Church. That perception, of course, is odious to those who belong to other churches. The general public will reject an LDS candidate for office whom they perceive will be a puppet for the LDS Church.

Some LDS Church members in Mesa, Arizona, bought the religious test and voted accordingly. Losing the vote of LDS constituents who mistakenly perceived that he had disobeyed their Church leaders contributed to Pearce’s defeat. This message wasn’t lost on the national media. The Washington Post stated in an editorial recap of the election that “Immigration was a factor in his defeat ­ in large part because the Mormon Church decided that it should be.”[3]

You can be sure that others have gotten the message loud and clear. Mitt Romney’s 2007 “Faith in America” speech aside, many people are wondering once again what a Mormon candidate for political office will do when faced with a decision that appears contrary to the position of the LDS church leadership. Can Romney be trusted to secure the borders, since it appears that the leaders of the Mormon Church want amnesty? Regardless of any tough statements on border security that he might make during the campaign, will he ultimately betray the public on immigration if the LDS Church sends him a cue? What role does the LDS Church really play in politics?

The LDS Church has on occasion taken strong positions on moral issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Churches have every right to take a position on moral issues, of course. They also have a right to take positions on policy issues, such as immigration. Church voices are important in public debate. However, elected officials must always remember that when they vote on a particular bill, they are acting as elected officials, not representatives of their Church.

They wear a different hat when they vote on legislation. At those moments, they are duty-bound to exercise their best judgment on an issue, based on months of study, committee hearings, discussions with experts and constituents, and in line with the state and U.S. Constitutions. At that brief moment in time when they cast their vote, they must honor their oath to the Constitution. They must not put the wishes of the Church ahead of their duties as elected officials.

The Arizona recall campaign spells trouble for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. I am not a Romney supporter but, if the public perception grows that LDS officeholders are expected to take orders from their Church leaders, then it will be goodbye to the possibility of an LDS candidate becoming President. Furthermore, qualified, talented LDS Church members will find it increasingly difficult to get elected to public office. That is a shame, because LDS Church members are patriotic and are strong supporters of the Constitution. I am LDS myself, and I know many good LDS elected officials. But LDS candidates will be rejected if the public believes they will put orders from their church leaders ahead of their legislative duties and their oath of office. If that happens, members of the LDS Church will have only themselves to blame for swallowing the idea that LDS candidates must pass a religious test to get elected. There is no religious test for office in this country.

Footnotes:

  1. “Stormin Mormons,” AZ Capitol Times, Aug. 8, 2011.
  2. “Williams: A Mormon’s View on Immigration,” Op Ed, Arizona Republic, Oct. 22, 2011.
  3. “Arizona Recall: Why Russell Pearce Lost,” Washington Post, November 9, 2011.

© 2011 Karen Johnson – All Rights Reserved

DeeDee Blase is a Liar and Engaging in Libel.

OK DeeDee Garcia Blase. If you want to play this game on the blogs, let’s play. I’m calling you out!

I have always believed that running Olivia Cortes was a huge mistake if not just plain stupid. Gaming the system in such a manner goes against the American Association of Political Consultants Code of Ethics.

I did not participate in the fiasco of running her as a candidate other than providing a forum for supporters and detractors to discuss her participation in the race.

Ultimately what Tom Ryan did to her was evil by dragging her through the mud and into the court system. If there was anyone YOU should be attacking for disrespecting Latinas, it is Tom Ryan and his minions for humiliating her in the courts. Shame on you DeeDee for not defending her!

Yes, Olivia Cortes was dragged into this stupid, unnecessary recall fiasco as a means to game the system. Those who pulled her into this were wrong for doing so.

DeeDee Garcia Blase, we may agree on several other issues but you are DEAD WRONG on my participation in the Cortes fiasco.

You should also go back and read Sonoran Alliance and see that I gave Jerry Lewis supporters the opportunity to post on Sonoran Alliance as guest opinions. I even gave Tyler Montague and Chad Snow space and time to get their opinions out:

Deep Thoughts from Team Pearce: A new interpretation of, “We report, you decide.” by Tyler Montague

Citizens for a Better Arizona Official Statement – “Why a Recall – Why Now?” by Chad Snow

You need to do your research before you start hysterically lashing out at what you don’t know.

This blog is well read across the State of Arizona and in Washington, D.C. Anyone who is a frequent reader and visitor will see that I have given each side the opportunity to voice their opinions.

If you want to continue to pursue this and tell lies about my position, I will be more than willing to dedicate space on Sonoran Alliance to make sure that you received negative ink on a daily basis. This is your opportunity to retract your posts that are outright lies and likely libelous. In exchange, I will remove this post. The choice is yours DeeDee Blase.

Finally, go back and read Sonoran Alliance in 2010 and you will see that John McCain had his supporters also posting on the blog. It was NOT one-sided as you alleged on your most recent post.

I am getting sick and tired of people like you who think that I write every post on Sonoran Alliance or don’t allow other viewpoints. There are plenty of people who will back me up that Sonoran Alliance bends over backwards to give equal access to both sides. Hell DeeDee, I would even give you your own login if you asked!

So tell the truth DeeDee Blase and take the opportunity to correct and retract your statements before you wear out my graces.

Pseudo Republican Hispanic Group Seeks to Recall Senator Russell Pearce

She’s back…

Today, Dee Dee Blase of Somos Republicans filed paperwork forming a political committee to recall State Senator Russell Pearce. The committee, using the name Arizonans For Better Government, is based out of a P.O. Box based in Scottsdale (document). Senate President Russell Pearce serves in Legislative District 18 which only covers west Mesa. A total of 7,756 valid signatures must be collected by May 27th in order to force the recall for the ballot.

Today’s committee announcement was probably in the works as Somos Republicans anticipated legislation forcing clarification and enforcement of the 14th Amendment. That legislation was introduced today and likely triggered the recall. As much as Senator Pearce has been on the forefront of efforts to tighten illegal immigration law, he is not the prime sponsor on the legislation. Instead, Senator Ron Gould and Representative John Kavanagh are the prime sponsors along with multiple co-sponsors. No recall efforts have been launched against either Gould or Kavanagh.

At the heart of the legislation is the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 which states the following:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The operative clause in that section is “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Many anti-illegal immigration advocates believe that birthright citizenship should not be determined based on one’s GPS location at the moment of birth.

Blase is no stranger to confrontational politics. On the Somos Republican website, visitors will find constant verbal attacks on conservative Republicans such as congressional candidate Janet Contreras, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Governors Jan Brewer and Sarah Palin.

Recall campaigns are extremely difficult to win first, in obtaining the number of valid signatures and second, through winning in the election process.

Having worked in west Mesa legislative campaigns, I believe this effort will fail and may actually be more of a public relations stunt to bring exposure to Somos Republicans cause.

Good luck Dee Dee but I will be supporting the efforts of Senator Pearce and the Arizona Latino Republican Association.

Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly: Disclaimer on Somos Republicans

Due to a flurry of media advisories being dispersed by Antonella Packard under the name of ‘Somos Republicans’; The Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly wants to make clear, that we are not ‘Somos Republicans’ (hereafter referred to as SR), nor are we affiliated or associated in any way with the actions and words of SR.

SR made its debut in Utah when they issued a press release on December 1, 2010 titled: We condemn the incarceration of Dream Act activist near the office of Senator Orrin Hatch. The Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly objected to SR’s attempts to malign the character of Utah’s Senior Senator Hatch with the issuance of a media advisory riddled with inaccurate, misleading and accusatory information. At the time, some members of the media and the Utah GOP mistakenly attributed the press release as being authored by the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly.

On December 9, 2010- SR issued a press release titled: “Somos Republicans is the largest and fastest growing Hispanic Republican organization in the nation, and we are proud to announce and appoint Antonella Packard as State Director for Utah.”

On December 28, 2010 –SR promoted Antonella from the position of Utah state director to that of ‘Northwest Director’ of their organization. Even more rapid than Antonella’s ascent in the organization is its report of exponential membership growth in Utah. In a Deseret News article by John Daley titled: ‘Hispanic Republicans look to raise profile on immigration’, Antonella reports they have ‘thirty members’. At this point, as far as many of us can determine SR in Utah has a membership of one person. If thirty new Hispanic Republicans do materialize, party officials in Utah would be more than happy to meet them and welcome them into the GOP.

Of notable interest here in Utah, is that the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly has worked closely with Republican and Democrat legislators, civic and religious organizations to develop several versions of an in-state guest worker program for consideration during the 2011 legislative session. In contrast to the direction we are moving with immigration reform, a recent City Weekly article stated “Somos Republicans does not champion “state solutions,” even the more Hispanic-friendly ones like Sen. Luz Robles’ plan to create a waiver for undocumented immigrants in the state…”

In terms of our purposes; The Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly is an integral part of the Utah Republican Party and is designed to bring even more Hispanics into the Party. In stark contrast, “Somos Republicans’ biggest strength may be its independence from the GOP, which allows the organization to take jabs at Republicans…” (Antonella Packard to Lead Conservative Latinos, City Weekly- December 28, 2010).

This same City Weekly article states that SR has 6,000 members in twelve states. That number is disputed by Party officials in those states as well as the claim that they are ‘largest and fastest growing Hispanic Republican organization in the nation’. “Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party, last week described Somos Republicans as a one-issue organization often quoted in the Arizona media, although he questions the strength of its membership.”We have tried to work with them in the past, and they have been unwilling to work with the Arizona Republican Party in promoting some Republican candidates. We have several Hispanic Republican groups in Arizona that we work with, and Somos is not one of them,” Roberts said.” (Hispanics hope to sway GOP, Des Moines Register –December 12,2010). Arizona Political pundits describe SR as a “Fraudulent GOP group still hard at work to undermine Republicans” (Political Views from a Red State blog – October 4, 2010) and “DeeDee Blase’s one-woman “Somos Republicans” does not represent AZ Republican Hispanics” (Sonoran Alliance blog – March 12, 2010). One blogger wrote:”Dee Dee Blase was an embarrassment by bringing her shrill amateur presentation to the table. It’s not that I completely disagreed with Mrs. Blase, but if you are going to present your ideas to a public forum, you should at least be civil and composed. Her rants mirrored the same style leftists use every time their ideas are challenged.” (The Right Guy blog –May 6, 2010)

All evidence to date, suggest that SR consist of a handful of disenchanted Arizonians that have in turn appointed a lose network of state and regional directors with the allurement of ‘national exposure’. There is no question that their cyber-world presence via web page, blogs, twitters, press releases, social media etc…far outweighs their value to the GOP in the real world of politics. Our purpose in creating this fact sheet is to clearly make the distinction between our two organizations and our stated purposes. They are not us, and we are not them.

WHO ARE WE?

The Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly was founded in 1991, by Jorge Arce-Larreta. Past state chairs include Marco Diaz, Sylvia Haro and Joe Reyna.

The Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly is an official auxiliary of the Utah Republican Party. Our current State Chair, Michael Clara works as a Transit Planner and serves as a member the Republican State Party Executive Committee and is a member of the Republican State Central Committee. Additionally, Michael was elected by the precinct chairs in his Salt Lake City neighborhood to serve as Senate District 1 Chair, which gives him a seat on the Salt Lake County Republican Party Executive Committee; he is both a county and state delegate. He has previously served as a Region Chair, Legislative Chair and Precinct Chair in the Salt Lake GOP.

Michael is honored to serve the Assembly and the Party with the following executive team:

First Vice Chair – Ana Archuleta
Second Vice Chair – Pedro Cavallero
Treasurer – Juan Manuel Ruiz (President, Latin Chamber of Commerce)
Secretary – Joel Acevedo
Subcommittee Chair- Lee Gardner (Salt Lake County Assessor)
Subcommittee Chair- Erik Contreras (Co-Chair, Utah Latino Legislative Task Force)

The mission of the URHA is to build a membership organization to foster the principles of the Republican Party in the Hispanic community; to provide Hispanic Americans with a forum to fully participate in local, state and national Party activities; to increase the number of Hispanic elected officials; and to create and maintain a network of Hispanic Republican leaders and policy makers.

Un abrazo,

J. Michael Clára
Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly
www.LosRepublicanosDeUtah.com