If the armed protesters occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were Muslims, you would be reading about another attack by “Islamic extremists.” Instead these protesters are Mormons, so their religion doesn’t seem to matter to America’s mainstream media.
The Christian Science Monitor is even trying to provide them with legitimate credentials. According to an article in that publication yesterday, they aren’t just a bunch of lawless hooligans welching on their grazing fees; they’re actually crusaders against encroaching poverty in the American West.
How’s that for special pleading?
You might argue that the Oregon occupation is inspired by economics, not by religion. But you would then have to explain the role of “Captain Moroni.”
That’s how the militiaman guarding the entrance to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge responds when asked for his name.
The name “Moroni” might ring a bell. In the Mormon faith, Moroni (statue pictured above) is the angel who enlightened Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder. During his time as a mortal, the angel was Captain Moroni, a great warrior.
I don’t recall any references at the time to the religious affiliation of the Cliven Bundy militiamen who ran off federal agents in Nevada. But, here’s what I found today on the Oregon Public Broadcasting web site:
During an April 2014 standoff with federal officials, supporters and members of the Bundy militia cited Book of Mormon passages centering on Captain Moroni. There were also several flags quoting Captain Moroni’s own writing on his “title of liberty.” Often next to American flags, these banners read “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”
That might not sound like religious extremism to you, but, when the words are backed up by loaded guns, it certainly does to me.
And you have to wonder why the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy (who is named after another Mormon messenger), cites divine authority when he defies the federal government.
In one of his videos, for example, he says he was anointed by God to protect ranchers who are suffering from tyranny. And he justifies occupation of the wildlife refuge under Captain Moroni’s “title of liberty.”
True, I’ve never heard of Mormons beheading nonbelievers, as some Muslim sects are doing. So obviously, the Mormon protesters aren’t as dangerous as the Islamic jihadists.
But I have to confess, I think the Mormon religion is bizarre. Their missionaries came to Jamaica when I was a child and tried to win converts but I don’t think they did very well. I got the impression that they believed – at that time anyway – that dark skinned people were somehow inferior.
Of course, they might feel my religion is bizarre. So they’re entitled to their beliefs. You can worship however you want in the USA.
But the Constitutional right to religious freedom doesn’t mean you can seize federal property and threaten to shoot anyone who contests your occupation. That’s plainly “extremist.”