Gary Johnson, presidential candidate hopeful from the Libertarian Party, upset Mormons after he made comments to a reporter about religious freedom being a “black hole” that could lead to discrimination. Johnson also made a reference to Mormonism, stating, “Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them and that they can shoot somebody dead?”
The comments come at a time when voting polls show voters in the Beehive state being pulled away from the GOP and Democratic Party to Johnson’s ticket. Rumors began spreading last week that Mitt Romney, former presidential nominee, was contemplating endorsing Johnson.
Now, Johnson has published an apology and full explanation of his thoughts and beliefs exclusively with Deseret News. You can read the full letter here. Below is an excerpt:
Thus, in response to a question thrown at me while walking down a street (in the rain), I expressed my reservations rather emphatically — and cited the experience of Mormons as a case-in-point where religious persecution resulted in violent episodes right here in America.
My point was that even a respected, peaceful people experienced tragic harm in the name of religion and was, in fact, persecuted by the government itself by politicians who opposed their beliefs and practices.
And on a personal level, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to mind because I had been in Utah the day before, as my campaign is actually based in Salt Lake City. I am well aware of the painful history of government interference with Mormons and the practice of their faith.
In part because of this unique history, I believe Utah has found an appropriate balance in a religious freedom law that serves as an example to the rest of the country that non-discrimination and religious freedom are not opposing forces, but can instead go hand in hand.