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Will Romney's Secret Service protection hinder Mormon temple visits?

Published October 9, 2012 11:21 am

But expert says LDS rite would not impede protection operation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Mitt Romney has gone to church several times since the Secret Service began guarding the Republican nominee, but he's yet to take in the more sacred Mormon rite: visiting an LDS temple.

As the first Mormon heading a major-party presidential ticket, Romney's newfound position with a Secret Service detail raises a question of how his around-the-clock protection would affect his ability to visit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' most holy buildings.

While the general public can worship at an LDS meetinghouse, only church members in good standing are allowed inside temples, including one just outside Washington, D.C., in a Maryland suburb.

"There's no way the Secret Service is going to put up with that [restriction], with all due respect," says Ronald Kessler, author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect." "They will get permission and, of course, the church will understand and want him protected. They will go in."

Kessler says protectees, like presidents or presidential candidates, do get a say in the level of security they need, though they also understand the threats against them at all times and are smart enough to know it would be too risky to go it alone.

"It would be ludicrous if his Secret Service couldn't protect him in any area like that where there are so many people. He would be a perfect target," Kessler says. "Even Mormons can be criminals."

Romney's campaign referred questions about the candidate's security detail to the Secret Service, which also declined comment, noting that it doesn't speak publicly about its means and methods of securing its charges.

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter, likewise, said the church wouldn't comment on security matters.

Other Mormons have held positions where security is mandatory, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has at least two Capitol Police officers with him at all times.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman, Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, declined to say how Reid's security is handled with regard to LDS temples.

"We don't discuss our security operations related to members of Congress," she said.

Reid does attend temple services on occasion, according to people close to the Nevada Democratic senator, but they were not clear if his security accompany him into the temple.

It wouldn't be an option for Romney with Secret Service protection, which, in the case of the president, stands close guard even in the secure compound of the White House.

But there might be other ways for Romney to attend services if he desired.

Bill Nixon, a Washington lobbyist and president of the Mount Vernon, Va., LDS stake, says the easy solution likely could be to send Romney in with temple-recommend-carrying agents.

"I imagine that there will be a very pragmatic solution to this," Nixon said, "not the least of which [could be that] some of many, many very sharp LDS members of the Secret Service could accompany on that specific kind of detail."

tburr@sltrib.com