Hannemann Explains His Religious Beliefs, Never Utters the Word ‘Mormon’

Interesting moment near the end of last night’s Gubernatorial debate, when Mufi Hannemann was asked what role religion would play in his administration. Here’s a complete transcript of his answer:

“I stand by what has been emphasized in my belief about my religion — that they teach me principles, but I have the principle of free agency to govern myself. And it’s that principle of free agency that I will exercise. This will not be an administration that will take orders from an ecclesiastical order, but then by the same time, my religion has been good for me, just like religions throughout the state. And I respect the right of everyone to adhere to a higher being, to respect the power of prayer and what faith can bring for us. As Mayor I was very grateful for the open relationship that I’ve had with Christian leaders, Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders, Buddhist leaders, Shinto leaders. It’s very important that a Governor understand and respect the diversity of religions that we have. We have freedom of religion in this state and in this country and I want to respect that. So that’s important that people understand where I’m coming from. I happen to be what I am, but by the same token I also respect your right to belong to your religion and appeal to a higher deity, whatever that situation may be.”

For those keeping score at home, that’s a 200 word answer, during which he found the time to say “religion” six times and “respect” five times, and also to name five different religions — but not the one he belongs to. In case you don’t know, Hannemann is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Here’s a May article from the Mormon Times titled “Honolulu Mayor bases leadership on Mormon principles.” There are a few lines in there that grate the secular sensibility (“I made it clear from day-one that this will be a prayerful administration. This administration will always seek guidance of the Lord”) but a lot of it’s pretty inoffensive, common-sense stuff, no different than the platitudes offered by any other religious politician (and they basically all are, at least publicly).

So why does Hannemann refuse to utter the name of his chosen faith in a public debate, when asked a direct question about it? What’s he ashamed of?

Also: though his answer sounds inclusive, read it again. There’s one group he never mentions, and in fact actively excludes. Take these two lines: I respect the right of everyone to adhere to a higher being, to respect the power of prayer and what faith can bring for us”; and “I happen to be what I am, but by the same token I also respect your right to belong to your religion and appeal to a higher deity, whatever that situation may be.”

Well, Mufi, what if my “situation” is that I don’t “adhere to a higher being”? Do you still respect my rights? Sure doesn’t sound like it.