As part of a larger effort to claim that their candidate is being persecuted for his religion, Rick Santorum’s staff is pointing towards Mitt Romney’s religion via the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York:

Santorum’s aides believe it is unfair that reporters are asking questions about aspects of Santorum’s faith and not asking similar questions about Mitt Romney’s. Of course, Santorum has spoken more publicly about the details of his religious beliefs than Romney has, and that is why some of the questions are popping up now. On the other hand, some in the Santorum camp are pointing to a 2007 interview Romney did with Iowa radio talk show host Jan Mickelson in which Mickelson essentially goaded Romney into discussing, off-air but on-camera, a few details of Mormon beliefs. (“The Church says that Christ appears and splits the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem,” Romney told Mickelson. “That’s what the Church says. And then, over a thousand years of the millennium, that the world is reigned in two places, Jerusalem and Missouri. . . . The law will come from Missouri, and the other will be from Jerusalem.”)

But specifically religious questioning of Romney is as rare as specific Romney statements about Mormon beliefs. Given the current grilling of Santorum, that is a source of growing frustration to Santorum’s advisers. “Why is Mormonism off limits?” asks one. “I’m not saying it’s a seminal issue in the campaign, but we’re having to spend days answering questions about Rick’s faith, which he has been open about. Romney will turn on a dime when you talk about religion. We’re getting asked about specific tenets of Rick’s faith, and when Romney says, ‘I want to focus on the economy,’ they say, OK, we’ll focus on the economy.”

The answer, of course, is that Mitt Romney is not on record suggesting that his campaign is part of God’s Own Resistance to the takeover of America by Satan, or that 45 million mainline Protestants have gone over to Satan’s side in that battle, or that the President of the United States is trying to abolish Christianity in the pursuit of a secularist “phony theology.”

If Rick Santorum believes what he says and says what he believes, he should stand up and be counted instead of whining about alleged persecution or pointing fingers at other candidates. If he wants to go after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as representing still another “phony theology,” he’s welcome to do that as well, at his peril. But he shouldn’t expect the news media to do it for him.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.