Reaching out to Utah’s Mormon community, Hillary Clinton touted her devotion to religious tolerance and faith-based values in an op-ed published by the LDS Church-owned Deseret News. In her piece, published Wednesday, Clinton wrote that she has “been fighting to defend religious freedom for years.” She pointed to her support for Coptic Christians in Egypt and Buddhists in Tibet during her tenure as secretary of state as examples. She name-checked former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who went on to serve as ambassador to China and who she said was a partner as she defended Chinese Christians from persecution.
Religious freedom, Clinton said, is “one of the sacred ideals that defines us as a nation. And it’s something that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to grasp.”
Her message to residents of one of the nation’s deepest red states comes as the Republican nominee struggles there, in part because of his bombastic message. A recent UtahPolicy.com poll of likely Utah voters showed Trump with just 37 percent support, while Clinton earned the support of 25 percent of respondents.
No Democrat has won Utah since Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater there in 1964. Clinton’s husband finished in third place there in the 1992 presidential race, behind independent candidate Ross Perot.
One of the most notable elements in the survey was the showing of Libertarian Gary Johnson, who has headquartered his campaign in the state and had the support of 16 percent of those polled. Johnson’s poll numbers in the state climbed 10 points relative to the poll’s previous iteration, conducted in June, evidence that Utahans are unhappy with both major party candidates.
“Americans don’t have to agree on everything. We never have. But when it comes to religion, we strive to be accepting of everyone around us,” she wrote. “That’s because we need each other. And we know that it so often takes a village — or a ward — working together to build the change we hope to see.”
In her op-ed, Clinton cited notable Utahans, including prominent members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints as she outlined her case against Trump. To make her point that Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is un-American, the former secretary of state quoted perhaps the nation’s most prominent Mormon, Mitt Romney, who said the Manhattan billionaire “fired before aiming” when he announced his plan.
Buttressing her point, Clinton also quoted LDS church member and former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), a reluctant Clinton-endorser who has compared Trump’s Muslim-ban proposal to Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs’s Mormon-targeting extermination order of 1838.
She called for immigration reform that will “bring families out of the shadows and keep kids and parents together” and advanced on moral grounds her other other family-focused issues, like supporting equal pay for women and paid maternity leave for mothers.
Clinton also quoted Rosemary Wixom, a high-ranking Mormon official who ran the LDS Church’s Sunday school program for children younger than 12 and later became the first woman to join the church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council. Wixom’s words, that “as individuals we are strong. Together, with God, we are unstoppable” mirror closely Clinton’s “stronger together” campaign slogan.
One Utahan Clinton did not cite, but who has made similar points in the past, is GOP firebrand Sen. Mike Lee, who said in late June that Trump’s previously “religiously intolerant” comments make him a tough sell, “in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And, statements like that make them nervous.”