Robert Gehrke: Sen. Mike Lee and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers share their LDS faith, but not values

Under intense pressure, Bowers would not cave to an unconstitutional scheme Utah Sen. Mike Lee helped concoct and promote.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers believes the U.S. Constitution is inspired by God.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee has said repeatedly in the past that he believes the same.

It is a core teaching in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith they also share. Bowers and Lee belong to the Republican Party. And both men took an oath to protect and defend the country’s founding document.

Yet their actions as Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election couldn’t have been more different.

On Tuesday, Bowers laid out how the former president, Trump’s attorneys and Trump’s supporters exerted withering pressure on the Arizona House speaker to convene hearings and appoint an alternate slate of electors — contrary to the results of the Arizona election — that would allegedly help overturn the results of the presidential election.

And because there wasn’t a single shred of evidence that there was election fraud in Arizona, Bowers, a Latter-day Saint, would not defy his oath.

“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired — one of my most basic foundational beliefs,” Bowers testified Tuesday to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. “So for me to do that just because someone asked me to is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.”

For standing up for the facts, the law and his faith, Bowers incurred the wrath of Trump loyalists. The Arizona Republican told the select committee that: People would protest outside his home, upsetting his daughter who Bowers said was gravely ill; a truck with a video display claiming he is a pedophile would drive up and down the street; hostile pamphlets were left on his doorstep; a man carrying a pistol and wearing a T-shirt with the Three Percenters militia logo on it confronted one of his neighbors.

(Jacquelyn Martin | AP) Rusty Bowers, Arizona state House Speaker, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

But Bowers held firm, refusing to buy into claims of fraud for which there was no evidence and a blatantly undemocratic and unconstitutional scheme of appointing alternate electors — a scheme that we now know Lee played an important part in concocting and promoting until just days before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

As we learned in April, Lee sent text messages to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows recommending and endorsing attorney Sidney Powell, the source of outlandish claims of hacked election machines and rampant fraud.

More importantly, Lee promoted the alternate elector theory hatched by attorney John Eastman, which alleged that lawmakers in states Joe Biden won could simply appoint an alternate slate that then-Vice President Mike Pence could choose to recognize, overturning the rightful outcome of the election.

It was that scheme that was aggressively pushed on state lawmakers like Bowers (and state legislators) by Trump.

In the days before the insurrection, Trump was promoting the alternate elector idea and took a shot at Lee at a rally in Georgia. The senator’s feelings appear to have been hurt and Lee told Meadows that he’d “been spending 14 hours a day for the last week trying to unravel this for him.”

At about the same time Lee was desperately trying to save the presidency for the man he once compared to the Book of Mormon’s Captain Moroni, Bowers was reflecting on “such rancor” being directed at him and looked again to his faith.

“I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner or a vengeful manner. I do not want to be a winner by cheating,” Bowers wrote in a journal entry he read for the select committee Tuesday.

“I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to with any contrived desire toward deflection of my deep, foundational desire to follow God’s will as I believe he led my conscience to embrace,” he continued. “How else will I ever approach Him in the wilderness of life knowing that I ask of this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course He led me to take?”

In Rusty Bowers and Mike Lee we have two men who belong to the same party, the same faith and have the same belief in the divinely inspired Constitution. Both swore an oath to support and defend the document.

One of them did.