The 2008 race for the Republican nomination for president has been marked by the highest degree of religious intolerance and bigotry as witnessed since the 1928 election where Republican Herbert Hoover ran a bigoted anti-Catholic campaign against Democrat Al Smith. Mormon Mitt Romney has been attempting to establish himself as a viable choice to Republican voters, while other candidates such as Sam Brownback have run a campaign almost pathologically opposed to the Mormon faith of Romney. And supporters of candidate Mike Huckabee have run a bigoted anti-Catholic campaign against Brownback as well.
Now an upcoming new movie release will likely completely devastate the Romney campaign by raising the religion issue in the worst possible terms. SEPTEMBER DAWN is a fictionalized love story set against the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 120 men, women and children in a wagon train on September 11, 1857 by Mormon militiamen and their Pauite Indian allies. Now Mormons will be portrayed as cold-blooded murderers on the big screen, and the reputation of their faith will take a huge public relations hit. For many Evangelical Christian voters, it will become the final straw and will result a mass rejection of Romney solely based on his Mormon religion. Romney won't be judged on his political positions, but his membership in a religion now tagged with cold-blooded killers. Nothing could be worse.
It is deeply sad that many years after a very regrettable incident, it will have a major effect at inspiring public anger against an American church as well as a negative impact on the 2008 election. The movie also presents possible security and safety problems for the Mormon faith as some religious extremists may strike out in anger against members of that faith or their houses of worship. This is a serious public safety risk. It also displays the awesome power that fictionalized screenplays might have in swaying public opinion against some group of persons. The producers of the movie may have hoped to illustrate the dangers of religious extremism and intolerance, but may just find that they will inspire much more of that intolerance.
Likely the movie will ignore the type of religious intolerance that members of the Mormon faith faced that forced them to emigrate to settle Utah. Prejudice against Mormons was the main reason that members of this faith sought a safe area of America to practice their faith in peace. But the film suggests that Mormon faith leader Brigham Young had some role in the massacre, although LDS historians continue to deny that, instead claiming that only some extremists were responsible for the massacre.
If the new film intended to promote more religious tolerance, then that point will likely be missed by many. Sometimes Hollywood filmmakers need to consider the awesome responsibility that they wield in influencing public opinion when dealing in incendiary content. SEPTEMBER DAWN may be a good film or not, but it likely will not prove very helpful to promoting more religious tolerance in the U.S. or to the campaign of Mitt Romney who now will have to work much harder to answer new public concerns about his faith.
Here's the trailer to SEPTEMBER DAWN:
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