Published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 | 3:28 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 | 7:33 p.m.
Sharron Angle’s pastor made incendiary statements about Sen. Harry Reid’s Mormon faith, accusing Reid’s religion of being a cult with “kooky” practices and having “hit squads” that “kill Mormons that go against them,” according to an article in a Reno weekly newspaper published today.
Pastor John Reed of Sonrise Church in Reno, which Angle stated was her church in her official legislative bio, told the Reno News and Review’s Dennis Myers that as Senate majority leader Reid answers to Salt Lake City, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.
Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen issued a statement today saying the Republican candidate has not been a member of Reed's church "for over six years."
"She strongly disavows any disparaging remarks against Mormons. As a Christian, Sharron shares the same values with other active Christians, including those of the Latter Day Saints community," Agen wrote in the statement. "Her former pastor in no way speaks for Sharron."
But in July 2008, as a candidate for state Senate, Angle included "music ministry, Sonrise Church" on a candidate questionnaire published by the Reno Gazette-Journal, listing it as one of three ways in which she was involved in the community. In the same survey, she also listed herself as a member of the Fellowship Community Church, also in Reno.
In an interview with the Sun, Reed said that Angle, a Southern Baptist, had been a member of his church for "over a dozen years" and for the past year has had "dual membership" in the two congregations. She attended his church as recently as a couple of months ago, he said. He attributed her recent absence to the busy campaign.
Reed confirmed that he was quoted accurately in the article and stood by his statements about the Mormon religion. The pastor said he was surprised that Angle, whom he described as "the perfect candidate," was attempting to distance herself from him and his statements about the LDS church.
Reid spokesman Kelly Steele called the statements “disturbing and hateful expressions of extreme religious bigotry.”
In the story that initiated the controversy, Myers wrote, “Pastor Reed, of course, does not speak for Angle any more than Barack Obama is responsible for Jeremiah Wright’s pronouncements,” referring to the controversial Chicago pastor whose utterances became endless fodder for cable news during the 2008 presidential campaign. But, Myers wrote, it raises questions about whether Angle and her church believe a line should be drawn between church and state.
The remarks could hurt Angle with Nevada Mormons, who as a group are more aligned politically with Angle's conservative Republicanism than Reid's Democratic positions. The Mormon vote in Nevada is significant, making up a quarter of the turnout in the 2008 Republican presidential caucus.
Angle has described her run against Reid in Biblical terms, and said she does not believe the country’s founding father’s wanted a wall between church and state.
In referring to Mormonism, Reed, Angle’s pastor, said:
“His religion’s a cult. The Christian community — all the Christians, theologians and scholars, all recognize that, that Mormonism is a cult. I have books in my library on cults, and it lists Mormonism right there with all these bizarre cults.
Well, there must be a reason. I mean, here a member of a cult is one of the most powerful people in the United States. Doesn’t that alarm you? And his allegiance is to Salt Lake City. Something is up with that. Something’s weird. But nobody touches that — Harry Reid’s allegiance is to Salt Lake City. The Mormon church is rich, powerful, they do illegal things. They do secretive things. They’ve got all this money. They own American businesses. There’s weirdness going on there. Churches are not multi-millionaire organizations like the Mormon church.
"You know, there’s some weirdness with that, but nobody questions it, nobody asks one question to Harry Reid and says, 'Tell us about your faith. What does a Mormon believe?’ Ask him about the holy garments that he wears that protect him from evil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about getting his body parts anointed by oil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about when he goes to the temple and he gets baptized for dead people. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about the hit squad of the Mormon church and why they need people to kill Mormons that go against them. Isn’t that controlling? Ask him how they shun people, then they get their family members to disown them and divorce them if they dare leave the Mormon church. Isn’t that cultish? I mean, I could go on and on.
"The Mormon church is a cult, and Harry Reid is a powerful person in a cult, and nobody even questions it.”
Myers, a veteran Northern Nevada journalist, said in an e-mail that he recorded his conversation with Reed and may post the audio soon on his blog.
Despite the Senate majority leader's prominent position on the national stage, he has an uneasy, sometimes contentious relationship with the conservative base, including members of his church. A scheduled appearance by Reid at a Mormon chapel earlier this year had to be canceled after members expressed anger over him potentially using the venue to gain votes.
In the 2008 Republican presidential caucus, Mitt Romney, also a Mormon, captured almost the entire LDS vote to coast to an easy victory here, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks. Mormons made up a quarter of the GOP turnout.