What’s next, knitting? The AP has taken up genealogy and investigated the family tree of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. On Saturday, February 24th, Yahoo published an AP article detailing the polygamy in his family's past. The AP includes the obligatory phrase noting that Romney condemns the practice but for the rest of the article, goes into explicit detail about the Romneys' devotion to polygamy, even after the Mormon church and federal law banned it. The AP rattles off the family’s polygamists and gets into “how important polygamy was to them” (emphasis mine throughout):
Romney's great-great grandfather, Parley Pratt, an apostle in the church, had 12 wives. In an 1852 sermon, Parley Pratt's brother and fellow apostle, Orson Pratt, became the first church official to publicly proclaim and defend polygamy as a direct revelation from God.
Romney's father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where Mormons fled in the 1800s to escape religious persecution and U.S. laws forbidding polygamy. He and his family did not return to the United States until 1912, more than two decades after the church issued "The Manifesto" banning polygamy.
"When you read the family's history, you realize how important polygamy was to them," said Todd Compton, a Mormon and independent historian who wrote a book about the polygamous life of the church's founder, Joseph Smith. "They left America and started again as pioneers, after they had done it over and over again previously."
B. Carmon Hardy, a polygamy expert and retired history professor at California State University-Fullerton, said polygamy was "a very important part of Miles Park Romney's family."
Hardy added: "Now, very gradually, as you moved farther away from it, it became less a part of it. But during the time of Miles Park Romney, it was an essential principle of the Romney family life."
Since Romney isn’t a polygamist himself, and he’s disavowed the practice, this information doesn’t seem like it would warrant an article. The article doesn’t explore the significance that Romney’s faith would have on the way he would handle Mormon-related issues or how his family history could influence his interaction with American polygamists, many of whom are self-proclaimed “Mormons”; it just gossips and raises doubt, tabloid-style, about his qualifications. That last paragraph is also a bit tricky. Notice that it says polygamy "became less a part" of the Romney family life, not that Romney's grandfather abruptly stopped the tradition, by marrying one woman, who distanced the Romneys even further from polygamy by not having plural marriage in her background.
The AP mentions how “polygamy remains a part of current events” and refers to a TV series about “Mormon” polygamy and Warren Jeffs, but they conspicuously chose to leave out Islamic polygamy, which, unlike “Mormon" polygamy, is still sanctioned by many of its faith’s leaders. In the US, although polygamy of any kind or faith is not widespread, some Muslims abroad are vocal in their support of American Muslims breaking US laws and engaging in polygamy, while some Islamic leaders in the US claim that in some situations, polygamy is"practical" and "compassionate."
If the AP believed investigating Romney’s family tree for polygamists was important, then I expect that we would soon see the results of a similar investigation of Democratic presidential candidate, Barak Obama. Obama has stated that his grandfather was Muslim, and his father was raised Muslim. It doesn’t matter whether Obama himself is or was ever Muslim; as in Romney's case, what only should matter is that a family member belonged to a religion that practiced polygamy. Somehow, I doubt we’ll see a similar article about Obama, though.
The AP links the issue of polygamy to Romney’s quest for the presidency:
Polygamy was not just a historical footnote, but a prominent element in the family tree of the former Massachusetts governor now seeking to become the first Mormon president.
I think we’ll see a documentary praising the internal combustion engine win an Oscar before we see a statement like the above about someone of Muslim heritage.
Other Mormons have run for the White House, including Romney's father in 1968 and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in 2000. But Mitt Romney's stature as a leading 2008 contender has renewed questions about his faith and its doctrines.
Hmm, when Virginia Representative Virgil Goode voiced his questions about the "faith and its doctrines" of Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim elected to Congress, he was called a bigot, and there were calls for his resignation, but when the AP does it, it is newsworthy.