At the dawn of a new year and a new presidential election, we should all stop and consider how much more bigoted we are as a nation than we were 30 years ago.

There’s that Congressman Goode creating anti-Muslim hysteria over a colleague (born in Detroit) who wants to take his oath of office on the Koran in a private ceremony. Goode is linking this private expression to terrorism and illegal immigration. But that’s so ignorant and bigoted that preachers, pundits and politicians of all persuasions are denouncing it or distancing themselves.

What bothers me more is that we’re having a serious debate about whether a Mormon, Mitt Romney, can be elected president. Romney’s father ran in 1968, and Morris Udall did well when he ran in 1976. Nobody knew they were Mormon because nobody cared.

What’s different now is that a small minority in the Christian community has won a veto power over the actions of a major political party in exchange for their money, energy, communication network and votes.

Since Romney knows they have make-or-break power over his ambitions, what concessions will he offer for their support? They believe they have the only key to the only doorway of Heaven, and they’re still deciding whether Mormons qualify.

Right-wing Christian political activists can believe whatever they want and have the same access to the political process everybody else does. But if they’re going to indulge in bare-knuckle politics of division and name-calling to win power, the rest of us have a right to say what they are: people who worship an authoritarian, punishing, narrow-minded god they created in their own image.

Their sincere beliefs, which they’re entitled to, will make bad public policy in a diverse nation and complex world. Their beliefs should not be suppressed, just defeated on the merits in free elections.

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