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Greg Gianforte

Technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte speaks during the Business to Business Luncheon in Bozeman this past March. Religion plays a central role in the life of Gianforte, who is exploring a run for the Republican nomination for Montana governor in 2016, but it’s a topic that the Bozeman entrepreneur and philanthropist declines to speak about at this stage.

HELENA — Religion plays a central role in the life of Greg Gianforte, who is exploring a run for the Republican nomination for Montana governor in 2016, but it's a topic that the Bozeman entrepreneur and philanthropist declines to speak about at this stage.

— Associated Press, Dec. 29, 2015

It appears the front-runner and best hope for the Montana Republicans’ gubernatorial bid, Greg Gianforte, through the Gianforte Family Foundation, has given plenty of money to organizations that share his beliefs.

That’s a great thing. He has literally put his money where his mouth is.

Except that his mouth isn’t saying much of anything. Or better stated: Gianforte is only talking about what Gianforte wants to talk about.

He seems to be a candidate for governor until you really get down to brass tacks, and then he’s just exploring a run. But exploring feels a lot like campaigning without the transparency or accountability.

Much is being made of his support of religious organizations, most if not all from what I can tell, would be characterized as right-leaning, conservative.

Again, that’s not only fine, but a noble thing. It’s one thing to talk about your beliefs; it’s another thing to help fund them. When compared to his total worth, $36 million seems modest.

The challenge is that Gianforte spends a lot of money on his religious pet projects, but then doesn’t want to discuss them. I wish I could believe that his reservations on the topic were borne out some modesty or humility. Instead, Gianforte may be reluctant to talk about his beliefs because then we might discover what he really believes — about gay people, evolution or any number of hot-button issues.

Red flag for voters

Gianforte’s silence on the matter is Catch-22 for his camp and supporters, but should be a red flag for the rest of Montana’s residents.

If he speaks about his beliefs and his donations, it might reveal that he is out-of-touch with many moderate Montanans who have a live-and-let-live outlook practically hard-wired into their DNA. It might reveal that he has some views that should cause us to wonder: If he supports certain religious beliefs, how would an administration treat those who don’t believe as he does?

On the other hand, if Gianforte distances himself from his extreme religious views or organizations, saying how he would govern isn’t shaped by his own personal beliefs, I say, phooey. (Actually, I’d say something a lot stronger, but I don’t want to offend any beliefs Gianforte may or may not have.)

If his religious beliefs don’t shape how he sees the world, if they don’t change the way he acts, if they don’t inform how he’d govern, he’d be a hypocrite and lazy. More than that, he’d appear to be supporting organizations that he doesn’t believe in, to the tune of $36 million. And, I have to believe no one — not even a millionaire hundreds of times over — would just part with $36 million for appearance's sake.

Acting on our beliefs

What I believe shapes who I am, and I don't think there's another person out there who honestly accepts that what you believe doesn't affect how you do your job.  

Except that Gianforte expects voters and those watching his campaign to believe it.

So, what would he do with a bill that enforces a statewide nondiscrimination act? Or does he support funding religious schools with taxpayer funds? We shouldn't have to vote him into office to find out.

It's also odd that the conservative, religious elements who so often fret about God being taken out of everything from schools to Christmas now have become disciples of the separation of church and state, or in this case, religious views and governing.  

I’ll let Gianforte’s money do the speaking for him. I believe that whatever he’s supported, he also believes. And, I will also be so bold as to guess that what he believes will shape how he acts, if the voters put him into the governor’s chair.

That’s why residents, voters and the media cannot let Gianforte simply take a pass by not answering questions about his beliefs. How he believes is how he will govern.

So, Mr. Gianforte, anytime you’re ready, I have some questions for you.

On the record, of course.