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. Frank

    I don't care what one nutball says about another. Neither an evangelical hatemonger nor a cult member are fit for politics.

    October 9, 2011 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  2. Solomon

    The great father founders of america were christians.they built this nation with the fear of the most high one.america today is like the great city of babylon mentioned in the bible and we can imagine how its fall was ,as a result of many tribes and faiths.in middle east christians are murdered simply coz of their faith but in america christians have peacefuly live with other religons with hate or persecution.the term democracy is what will make the great nation to fall down.

    October 9, 2011 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  3. Davinia

    America is a republic whereby its the people who vote officials to represent and serve them. It is imperative for the people, especially today, to evaluate candidates in an indepth manner to ensure that the best candidate get into office and can get the job done thereby accomplishing the mission. The Declaration of Independence, we fought long and hard for, gives the people of the United States of America the liberty and right to do so.

    October 9, 2011 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  4. CA Dream USA

    No worry Romney will still take this guy to dinner......He needs his vote and money........They can call him anything they want..Just don't call him late for a check....

    October 9, 2011 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  5. your face

    this pastor is an idiot. i mean what the hell? mormons are not christians? yeah, stupid idiot. he should get his head out of his ass, and get his facts straight.

    October 9, 2011 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  6. gooner

    what does awaiting moderation mean...since last night?

    October 9, 2011 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  7. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Litmus tests and pledges are the teabagger way. The wingnut/teabagger trainwreck implosion continues.

    October 9, 2011 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  8. Mark Yelka

    And religions that believe they are the only "true" one have intolerance as part of their core values.

    October 9, 2011 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  9. PD

    Vote for Mr. Perry!

    October 9, 2011 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Mormons Are Christians. Anyone can find that out for themselves.

    October 9, 2011 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  11. mfx3

    Religion matters to non-religious people too. If you're a raving, foaming Christian, I have the right to vote against you. And I will.

    October 9, 2011 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  12. William dodge

    Why is it all the religious freaks sound so gay. They have such a strong lissp.... In their twang .

    October 9, 2011 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Jeffress seems to be on the same page as the Westboro Baptist Church. As both continue to take Christianity back 2000 years.

    October 9, 2011 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  14. sparknut

    I can almost hear Jeffress saying, "I'm not a bigot. I just don't like anyone who's not like me."

    October 9, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  15. a in austin

    On any given day Perry walks hand in hand with this man and his beliefs. When pressed for answers he walks away....

    October 9, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If there is a problem, Jeffress needs to step back and let Jesus sort it out.

    October 9, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  17. unowhoitsme

    "Christianity" is no different than Mormanism...they BOTH are cults that lead people astry.

    October 9, 2011 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  18. ryan

    Let's face it the pastor is ignorant and a little creepy. I would like to hear him explain his lisp and the undertones of having one.

    October 9, 2011 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  19. dg

    Sure people that believe in fair.y tales want a person that believes in fair.y tales to be president. Hopefully saner minds prevail.

    October 9, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  20. ryan

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Pastor Jeffress is also an anti Semite.

    October 9, 2011 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  21. Rozelle

    We don't vote for a preacher, we vote for a President. Competence trumps religion every time. It's okay, though, if you can get both.

    October 9, 2011 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  22. Duane

    What else would you call someone who tells others not to vote based on religion? A bigot...plain and simple

    October 9, 2011 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  23. Christfollower

    My family support your comments Pastor! It is so sad that most do not want to hear the truth and then know it....The days are drawing ever so short!

    October 9, 2011 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  24. Robert

    big·ot·ry   [big-uh-tree] noun, plural -ries.

    1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

    2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

    I would say Jefress is two for two. No?

    October 9, 2011 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  25. Gumby

    This is why I despise religion. Note how Jeffress spewed bigotry and then went into evasion mode every way he could to avoid taking responsibility for his hateful divisiveness. I'm so glad I left that poisonous religion. The day Christianity finally fades away will be a great day for mankind.

    October 9, 2011 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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