Pastor denies remarks against Romney were 'bigotry'
October 8th, 2011
05:09 PM ET
3 years ago

Pastor denies remarks against Romney were 'bigotry'

(CNN) – A megachurch pastor and supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry stood firm Saturday on his stance that Christians should vote against presidential hopeful Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith.

"Those of us that are evangelicals have every right to prefer and select a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian," Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, told CNN on Saturday.

Jeffress stirred controversy Friday when he told reporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington that he believes Mormonism is a "cult."

The pastor hailed the Texas governor - who is vying for the Republican nomination and the chance to face off against President Barack Obama in 2012 - as a superior candidate to Romney because of his Christian faith.

His comments drew ire from former Education Secretary Bill Bennett on Saturday, who associated Jeffress' remarks with "bigotry" while speaking at the summit.

"Do not give voice to bigotry," Bennett said. "You stepped on and obscured the words of Perry and Santorum and Cain and Bachmann and everyone else who has spoken here. You did Rick Perry no good sir, in what you had to say."

While Romney didn't directly address the comments during his summit appearance Saturday, he praised Bennett for his speech.

Jeffress himself fired back later in the day, arguing that his statements were not bigoted. He cited John Jay, the first chief justice in the United States, who said that Christians have a "duty" to select other Christians as the country's leaders.

"I hardly think John Jay was a bigoted person," Jeffress said.

When asked about Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which bans a religious test for the presidency, Jeffress said the clause only applies to the government, not individuals.

"We have every right to impose a litmus test on the kind of person we prefer," he said. "You can show preference without being a bigot and certainly without violating the Constitution."

CNN's Kyra Phillips on Saturday pressed Jeffress on whether religious beliefs should trump competence in presidential candidates.

"Yes," Jeffress said. "To religious people, religion matters."


Filed under: 2012 • Faith • Mitt Romney • Rick Perry • Values Voter Summit
soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. stupid

    I wonder who cnn wants target to ruin, since perry through his name in no positives all criticism, he has done amazing with texas and did more there then Obama has done period. And mormonism is a cult, if I walked into a forest and found some gold tablets that only my mistress can read that told me how to live life according to god would anyone believe me? Suppose so. Lol. Americans

    October 9, 2011 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  2. Jo

    It is every individual's right to vote for a president that shares their values and even religion. This is absolutely true for democracy, and I absolutely agree with Jeffress on that and support him. However, I do not agree with his narrow definition of Christians. Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, the same Christ in the same bible. There are differences, of course, in the tenets of the beliefs, just like there are differences in all the Christian denominations. Voting for a Mormon is voting for a Christian. Even if you don't agree with this, it's time that conservatives rally around our core Christian values- families, life, moral standing, and religious freedom. These are all shared by Mormons, and they are quite conservative, or more so, than the average American, in these values. We need to unite in our values, not fight and bicker which only gives power to our common opponents.

    October 9, 2011 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  3. Depdog

    Freedom. Of speech covers pastor and Of religion...both. I guess I would need more specific info to determine who is unwise.

    October 9, 2011 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  4. DCPam

    Mormons are bigots too, so who cares.

    October 9, 2011 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  5. Zach M.

    No, religion shouldn't matter when it comes to picking a presidential candidate. There are much more important things to worry about than what religion the person is. If the president of the United States and our congress used the bible and their religious beliefs to make decisions on behalf of the country then yes I would say that's important. But when you have people who are worried about their party being the right party, the more dominant party, then no that accounts for nothing. I don't care what religion any of you are, if you are qualified and I think you are the best candidate for the presidential office then I would vote for you. Judging someone by what religion they are and criticizing them for it is just as bad as people criticizing Obama for being black, and Chris Kristie for being fat. A good politician should be measured based upon their qualifications and your own opinion of what kind of job you think they would do in office, not some racist or prejudice crap. Come on people we're better than this. Our country is in a hole right now so stop being petty, get off your high horse, and pick the best in the bunch regardless of their religion, skin color, or political affiliation.

    October 9, 2011 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  6. Jesus Cristo

    I hate religion... But I dont care if Romney is mormon or has alien blood... But the kkkrisitans are out of control... they want to convert everyone...

    October 9, 2011 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  7. petridish

    All religions are cults, I'd rather vote for an atheist.

    October 9, 2011 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  8. Juan

    Who cares? What about Jews, muslims, buddists....? I thought we were over this kind of crap from evangelicals or shall I say "hypocriticals"?

    October 9, 2011 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  9. dina

    To bigots and prejudiced people, religion matters. To intelligent people religion is a myth perpertrated by crazed people.

    October 9, 2011 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  10. Tommy

    This whole situation completely disgusts me. We are in foreign countries fighting wars that terrorist started out of religious hatred for our country. We would like to claim that we are in no way a people who would fight based on a religious stance other than protecting the freedoms of ALL of our people to practice ANY religion they choose. Yet, we have people saying we should choose a president based on religious faith? This makes us absolutely no better than Iraq or Afghanistan. If we are going to use religion as a reason to vote for someone we have officially sent ourselves back to the dark ages!!!

    October 9, 2011 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  11. 86Jrod

    Meh.

    October 9, 2011 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  12. blaqbox

    Can we stop giving churches tax free status now!?!?!?!?!?

    October 9, 2011 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  13. Kevin Quail

    CNN's Kyra Phillips on Saturday pressed Jeffress on whether religious beliefs should trump competence in presidential candidates.

    "Yes," Jeffress said. "To religious people, religion matters."

    Yeah, and to idiots who believe in an adult imaginary friend due to childhood brainwashing, stupidity matters.

    October 9, 2011 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  14. Kevin Quail

    Gora [Shri Goparaju Ramachandra Rao] (1902-1975)
    Atheist from India who worked toward the abolition of untouchability with Gandhi, and who founded the world-renowned Atheist Centre in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

    Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality.
    - Gora, "Atheism and Morality" in Atheism Questions and Answers

    October 9, 2011 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  15. Jim Cowan

    The Reverend is a nut.

    October 9, 2011 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  16. Mike Moses

    ℓ̊ strongly in surport of whatRick Perry said, we Christian hav taken many things for granted that why we are been attack from all corners of the world π if we dont stand up to protect of interest, ℓ̊ fear another Hiltker may soon be by the corner.

    October 9, 2011 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  17. Bushper

    This so called pastor Jeffress is demented and conflicted. He urges christians not to vote for Romney and then made a 360 and said he would vote for Romney if he won the nomination. What a fool.

    October 9, 2011 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  18. Emelia

    Wow, even I'm laughing at this one. A cult is a group getting together in secret to worship something or in a way that is socially taboo. Christianity began as a cult, actually. A spin-off of the worship of Dionysus. His statement is so hypocritical that it's funny.

    October 9, 2011 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  19. PGelsman

    Isn't there a law that states that once 'religious' leaders start telling their flock who to vote for that they will lose their TAX FREE status?
    I am sure I read this somewhere.
    And besides, I would rather see Romney in the White House than that nutjob Perry. And this is from a liberal Jewish Democrat.

    October 9, 2011 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  20. sonic10158

    I won't vote for Romney because I don't like his policies

    October 9, 2011 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  21. jtw29

    This article fails to mention the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, is in fact a Christian church. They believe in the same Jesus Christ the Bible teaches about. He is the center of their teachings. If you doubt it, see for yourself what they teach at Mormon.org. This pastor has no idea what mormons are all about.

    October 9, 2011 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  22. Ty

    Jeffress : Bigot

    October 9, 2011 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  23. oy

    crap Im not religious at all....but if I was...........anyway this guys statements are true.....good thing most people aren't like him.....

    October 9, 2011 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  24. GaryGuitar

    Jeffress is just another nutty soldier in the religion wars. The Taliban are also laden with religious dogma, like Jeffress' in rigidity, but the Taliban will physically kill those who disagree. Jeffress will try to politically kill off opponents, as with Romney. Jeffress is an athiest in Allah country and Allah worshipers are athiests in the U.S. So, there you have it folks: Christopher Hitchens is right in his book, god is not Great. Bill Mahr is also correct when he talks of those like Jeffress who have an imaginary friend in the sky.

    October 9, 2011 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  25. KKK

    Someone is learning from America’s great ally Pakistan. Very often religious leaders make similar statements during elections.

    October 9, 2011 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
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