I reached out to the Gary Johnson campaign today in response to his comments on Mormons and religious liberty and got the following response:
Statement from Gov. Gary Johnson regarding comments reported in Washington Examiner column:
“My reference to the LDS church, made during an impromptu conversation, was an admittedly very imprecise reference to the violence that accompanied the Mormon’s early history in the 1800s– violence that was prompted by the persecution of the Mormons themselves by both the federal government and others. Absolutely no offense was intended, and I regret any that has resulted.
My point, made with an unfortunate example, is that religion has been used too many times to justify discrimination, persecution and, yes, violence. Acts of violence and aggression can not be excused by religion and all people must be held accountable for their own actions.
Few in America have experienced that persecution more than Mormons, and I understand and respect that. The LDS church and its historical struggles with the government are perfect examples of the need for true religious freedom, not selective freedoms legislated and created by politicians. I consider many of the LDS faith to be my closest of friends including National Campaign Manager Ron Nielson.”
My take: Gov. Johnson still does not seem to understand the importance of religious liberty, but at least he was not accusing Mormons of wanting to use religion as an excuse to shoot people dead. Personally, I am very relieved that he is aware of the Mormons’ history of religious persecution. Many readers may know that the Johnson campaign is based in Salt Lake City, so it is clear that Gov. Johnson has many Mormon friends.
If only some of his friends could help him understand the importance of religious liberty….
As some readers may know, Gov. Johnson was quoted as saying the following:
“Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them and that they can shoot somebody dead.”
So what the candidate was apparently trying to say was that Mormons have suffered from other groups because of religious persecution, and this is what he wants to try to avoid.
I am thankful that the Johnson campaign clarified.