PROVO -- Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., says Mitt Romney's Mormonism should not be a factor for voters when they choose who should be the next president of the United States.
Drawing on his own experiences as a Jew and a vice presidential candidate in the 2000 election, Lieberman said that the American voters in general are more concerned about a candidate's vision for the future than they are about where a candidate attends church on Sunday.
"Gov. Romney must be judged not on the basis of his faith, which may be different to many, but on his personal qualities, his leadership, his experience and his ideals for America's future," Lieberman said at a Brigham Young University forum.
Speaking at the Marriott Center to more than 5,000 BYU students, Lieberman stated that religion does and should play a role in the public square of America. The four-term U.S. senator went on to say that he welcomes the opportunity to hear about a candidate's faith because it gives him a greater understanding of the character of the candidate. But he said the founding fathers set up the Constitution, in article six, to prevent voters from performing a "religion test" on those seeking public office.
"My personal experience in 2000 ... gives me great confidence that the voters will again reject any sectarian religious test and show their strong character, their instinctive fairness and their steadfast belief in the ideals of the declaration in the Constitution," Lieberman said.
Lieberman stated that if Romney wins the Republican nomination then he will have to educate the general public about the Mormon faith; he said he will need to do what John F. Kennedy did in 1960 by speaking about his Catholicism and appeal to people's better nature and fairness when it comes to religion and politics.
Lieberman was asked in the question-and-answer portion of the forum about a Gallup poll that stated 22 percent of Americans are hesitant to support a Mormon for president in 2012. Lieberman called the numbers troubling and said they reflect a bias and bigotry toward Mormons in America. Lieberman speculated that the 22 percent had probably never met a member of the Utah-based religion.
"I would bet you that whatever that percent of people that said they would be reluctant to vote for a Mormon candidate for president, I bet they have little to no contact with members of the LDS Church," he said. "I'm going to take it on myself to be my own whistle-blower when I hear expressions of bigotry toward Mormons and you should do the same, don't hesitate to speak up in your own defense because you have a lot to defend."
Lieberman also discussed the Jewish sabbath during his speech. Lieberman acknowledged that Mormons and Jews, although they observe the sabbath on separate days, both strive to observe a day of rest and argued that many more Americans need to return to a practice of observing a seventh day. Elders L. Tom Perry and Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were in attendance for the forum.