Mitt Romney has emerged as the financial frontrunner on the Republican side with $21 million in his war chest. Certainly his profile has been raised given his appeal to more hard-right leaning conservatives.

Yet many have asked whether his religion might be a liability and a Feb Gallup poll showed that those surveyed were much more comfortable electing a Catholic, Jewish, black or hispanic president than a Mormon president.

While Mitt’s Mormon faith and the challenges it may pose for him have been widely discussed, it seems like few have discussed why his faith might pose a challenge for voters.

I can only answer that from the black point of view. When I was a kid, I remember riding in the car with my mama and one of us kids pointing out — wow, that sure is a pretty church. My mother grew quiet and told us:

That’s a nice church but it’s a Mormon church. And there’s something you need to know about the Mormons. They did not allow black members to become ministers in their church until 1978. 1978! Just keep that in mind.

Since then I’ve met and worked alongside many Mormons and found them all to be great people who treated me just fine. 1978 was some time after many other social breakthroughs for African-Americans had been achieved, however, so it does say something unattractive about the institutional leadership of the church.

Yes, that was almost 30 years ago. Still the 1978 revelation allowing blacks to participate fully and equally in the Mormon church remains a sensitive spot even for black Mormons judging from some of the websites out there that they have created such as The Black Mormon Homepage and

From the Black Mormon homepage, I learn that early founder Joseph Smith was an Abolitionist who argued for equal rights and education for blacks. Yet the Curse of Cain Doctrine was one that Mitt Romney accepted as an Elder in the Church. He was 31 in 1978 when the revelation arrived. A full grown man who chose to join a church struggling with racism. (h/t Rod 2.0)

What black people think probably doesn’t matter so much to the Republican elite since we tend to vote Democratic. We ain’t voting for Mitt anytime soon. Still Romney may have some uncomfortable questions coming his way that might give swing suburban voters of various ethnicities pause. Questions to which America deserves honest answers. Such as: did you believe and support the Curse of Cain Doctrine until the 1978 “revelation”? What if anything did you do to change the church’s position on race prior to 1978? How do you demonstrate with your record in office and today your committment to equal opportunity and rights for all American citizens?

He’s been vulnerable on race before, if you note the tar baby comment for which he was forced to apologize. Which I agree was probably not actually racist in context. But was his historic refusal to hand over the state of Massachusetts to Deval Patrick and participate in the inauguration of his state’s first African-American governor and only the second in U.S. history? I might agree with James Boyce at HuffPost that it was either cowardly or racist or both.

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