Holy Jeremiah Wright, Batman! In the Nevada Senate race, Republican nominee Sharron Angle is now having to put some distance between herself and her own former pastor, John Reed of Sonrise Church in Reno, after Reed attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Mormon religion.
In an interview with the Reno News & Review, Pastor Reed attacked Harry Reid, making some rather inflammatory comments regarding the Latter-Day Saints Church being a “cult” — and alleging conspiracies involving big business and secret murders:
“The Christian community–all the Christians, theologians and scholars, all recognize that, that Mormonism is a cult. I have books in my library on cults, and it lists Mormonism right there with all these bizarre cults. Well, there must be a reason. I mean, here a member of a cult is one of the most powerful people in the United States. Doesn’t that alarm you? And his allegiance is to Salt Lake City.
You know, there’s some weirdness with that, but nobody questions it, nobody asks one question to Harry Reid and says, ‘Tell us about your faith. What does a Mormon believe?’ Ask him about the holy garments that he wears that protect him from evil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about getting his body parts anointed by oil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about when he goes to the temple and he gets baptized for dead people. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about the hit squad of the Mormon church and why they need people to kill Mormons that go against them.”
Pastor Reed’s public bashing of the LDS Church, coming less than a month before the election, is probably not helpful to Angle for many reasons. While Harry Reid is a Mormon and one of the top Democrats in the country, the fact remains that Mormons as a whole are overwhelmingly Republican. In the exit poll data for Utah — the only state where a separate breakdown for Mormons was listed — they voted for John McCain by a margin of 78%-19%. And it would be hard to argue that Reid’s “allegiance is to Salt Lake City” or that he secretly takes orders from the church — for example, his record on social issues such as gay rights is basically to the left of the church’s official positions.
As such, any associations between Angle and Pastor Reed’s invocation of A Study In Scarlet-style Mormon death squads could cause the Republican some problems with a group where she needs a strong margin to win.
As the Las Vegas Sun reports, Angle’s campaign is quickly distancing her from Reed, and claiming that she has not been a member of his church for over six years. “She strongly disavows any disparaging remarks against Mormons. As a Christian, Sharron shares the same values with other active Christians, including those of the Latter Day Saints community,” spokesman Jarrod Agen wrote in the statement. “Her former pastor in no way speaks for Sharron.”
But at the same time, there is a decent amount of conflicting evidence — from both Reed and her own past campaign statements — that she may have been a member much more recently:
But in July 2008, as a candidate for state Senate, Angle included “music ministry, Sonrise Church” on a candidate questionnaire published by the Reno Gazette-Journal, listing it as one of three ways in which she was involved in the community. In the same survey, she also listed herself as a member of the Fellowship Community Church, also in Reno.
In an interview with the Sun, Reed said that Angle, a Southern Baptist, had been a member of his church for “over a dozen years” and for the past year has had “dual membership” in the two congregations. She attended his church as recently as a couple of months ago, he said. He attributed her recent absence to the busy campaign.
The TPM Poll Average currently puts Reid ahead by 47.3%-46.6%.