Google Ads, Mormonism, and Mitt Romney

A couple of months ago, I had an argument with someone about the impact of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism on his campaign for President. In short, I wish it wouldn’t have any, but I think it will. Then I picked up a copy of the WSJ and started reading it and there was a full page article about something outrageous that a Mormon Seminary had done. Now, this is not a shot against Mormons or seminaries — my mother, father, step-father, two grandparents, and 3 uncles all graduated from seminary, and I know that seminaries do outrageous things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — but rather to point out that Mormonism is going to come under scrutiny.

That’s a preface to my point. I recently put up Google Ads on this site. And next to nearly all the articles that mention Mitt Romney, an ad pops up (and is probably showing up right now along with other ads targeted to Mormon audiences. Click on them and give me money!):

The Book of Mormon:
Is it true? And does it matter?
“The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon”
www.lhvm.org

This takes you to The Living Hope Ministries (describes its purpose as “Educating and equipping Christian Ministry to Mormons”) which has an online movie comparing the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They offer free videos to Mormons that explain why they think the Book of Mormon got it wrong. Now much ink has and will be spilled about various antagonisms between Evangelicals and Mormons, but, again, that’s not my point.

Living Hope Ministries is almost certainly paying money to show up in Mitt Romney searches. Now this is good business because their target audience is Mormons. But they also reach non-Mormons (like me) who are trying to learn more about Mitt Romney. What will the politics of this be? And what will the law be? They are quite entitled to do this as 501(c)3s. This is “public education”. There will probably be, in the end, a huge soft money operation to “inform” people about Mormonism on both sides. (that is Mormons probably will counter)

Indeed, in many ways, this will be an opportunity for Mormons to try to main stream themselves within the country. All in all, this raises the possibility of foregrounding religion even more in the Republican primary. This contest will be important for American politicals, but it will also be important for American religion.