(CNN) – A pastor of a mega church in Dallas said Friday that Republicans shouldn't vote for White House hopeful Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon and described the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a "cult."
"I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian," said Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which has a congregation of about 10,000 and has long been considered a highly-influential church in evangelical circles.
Jeffress, who's endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry and introduced him at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, told CNN Political Correspondent Jim Acosta that the Southern Baptist Convention "has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult."
In fact, a website maintained by the Southern Baptist Convention lists the Mormon faith under its "New Religions and Cults" section, which also includes Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology.
"That's why I'm enthusiastic about Perry," Jeffress said, later adding: "I again believe that as Christian, we have the duty to select Christians as our leaders…Between a Rick Perry and a Mitt Romney, I believe evangelicals need to go with Rick Perry."
Perry distanced himself from the comments Friday night, telling reporters in Iowa he doesn't think the Mormon church is a cult.
This isn't the first time the Dallas pastor has hit Romney over his religion. During the 2008 campaign, he made similar comments.
But if it came down to a contest between Romney and President Barack Obama, Jeffress said he'd still vote for Romney, although holding his nose at the same time.
"I would rather have a non-Christian who at least supports biblical principles than a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces unbiblical positions," he said.
When asked for a comment, Perry's team said it was the event organizers–not the campaign–who asked Jeffress to introduce the candidate.
"The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult," added Mark Miner, Perry's national press secretary.
Michael Purdy, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment on a statement "made at a political event."
"But those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to mormon.org," Purdy said in a statement.
The Romney campaign said it will not have any comment to the remarks made by Jeffress.
Meanwhile, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which helped organize the event, said on CNN's "John King, USA" that his group gave Perry a heads up approximately two weeks ago that Jeffress would be introducing the governor.
"We sent it to the campaign. They signed off on it," Perkins said. "I don't think there was any other communication beyond that. The campaign did not know what he would say. We did not know what he would say."
Jeffress made his comments about Romney in a conversation with reporters, not in his introductory speech for Perry.
Later on Friday, he stood by his comments, saying it was his job as a pastor to support a candidate of the Christian faith.
"I don't hate Gov. Romney. He's a good, moral person," Jeffress told CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King. "But as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have the responsibility to proclaim what the Bible proclaims."