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. Wildone

    You can believe whatever you want to believe. That Jesus Christ came to Palmyra NY. Or that human beings on this planet were seeded here from another planet. You can believe that humans are descended from apes. Who cares. As for me, I believe that all religions are cults and the cause of most of the world's people's failure to just get along with each other.

    October 9, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  2. Ron

    "Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate."

    Great "words" from Willard! Too bad he has not taken his own advice when speaking about the President of the United States during a time of war, no less. Who was it that said comments such as those coming from the republican party now are "giving aid and comfort to the enemy"? Oh, yeah. I remember: republicans...

    October 9, 2011 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  3. reinadelaz

    James 1;27 tells us that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneslf from being polluted by the world." What a wonderful country we might live in if all who claimed Christ as Saviour would follow the royal command to love one another. God bless America.

    October 9, 2011 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  4. mike

    Mormonism is a cult, according to the definition of the word "cult". Regardless of whether you believe in any form of God, or if you don't believe - any "religion" that puts it's followers hope for salvation into the hands of the leadership of the religion, and requires it's followers to complete some sort of tasks (or donate money) is by definition, a cult in the modern sense of the word "cult". Before people react to the harshness of statements like this they ought to do some simple research and see how Mormonism originated, what it requires of its followers and the basic tenants of its doctrine. You'll see pretty quickly that it is a cult. The only thing it lacks (thank goodness) is the oppression and control of what we typically think about with cults, where once you are "in" it's almost impossible to get "out".

    October 9, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  5. onwubolu ikechuku

    What a shame, this is religious fanaticism! 4 Christ said,"my kingdom is not of this world"

    October 9, 2011 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  6. Ron

    I say that it is high time that the IRS tax the pants off of First Baptist Church of Dallas and others of its ilk!!

    October 9, 2011 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  7. Helene Wilson

    When I last checked, each of us are still are allowed to express our opinions in this country. Jeffress' opinion is not my own, so I can express my opinions in return without having to resort to heated terms like "bigot". I appreciate news stories on the candidates themselves so I can form my own opinions instead of that person's character and qualifications for office. I then can agree or disagree with another's expressed opinion and express mine. Mr. Romney's religious beliefs may be a concern, but not a reason to not consider him as a viable candidate for POTUS.

    October 9, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  8. informed voter

    Most bigots and racists will deny their bigotry.

    October 9, 2011 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  9. danny

    all religions are cults

    October 9, 2011 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  10. cj

    The world is falling apart before my eyes. Welcome to the Divided States of America.

    October 9, 2011 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  11. Mtta

    When Rev. Jeremiah Wright's disciple was elected in 2008, Jeffress didn't voice any objection. I guess anti-Americanism is more tolerable to Jeffress than Mormonism which teaches people to be good citizens of a society. As a religious leader, he should teach love and tolerance, not hate and intolerance. He shouldn't belong to any congregation which represents God.

    October 9, 2011 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  12. Ben

    Crazy man speaks, news media gives him the attention he craves. I read and post a comment on the article, giving them the ad impressions they wanted. Who wins? The crazy man and the news media.

    October 9, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  13. Jersey Wonderfool

    Yes John Jay was a bigoted person which was a norm in his days, in the 18th century, when the South had slavery and racial segregation was normal in the north. And Catholics were not in this country. Jeffress only shows that not only he is bigoted against Mormons, he is a racist against anyone who is non-European non Christian (as he defines it). In his world, Jefferson would be unacceptable and not fit to be a President. Where are Bobby Jindals and Nicki Haley whose have become Christians but who still have parents who are non-Christians? Why are they not denouncing Jeffress publicakly? Is it because they are afraid to lose Tea Party support? Is the Tea PArty beholden to the bigots like Jeffress?

    October 9, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  14. Helene Wilson

    Please do NOT use the opinion expressed above as mine. Somehow the words were changed after I submitted it. I form opinions about the candidates character and qualifications on what that person does, not on other's opinions.

    October 9, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. foxfire

    I was a Baptist and this Rev. Jeffers is a religious nut that earns too much money and like most Southern Baptist Ministers are just a bunch of hot air. I worked for the Baptist for six years in New Orleans and I had a first hand look at them. They care nothing for the poor and under class. Fill the pews and bring your money every Sunday.

    October 9, 2011 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  16. onwubolu ikechuku

    What a SHAME! This religious fanaticism, Jesus Christ said " my kingdom is not of this world" He had all it takes to be king over Isreal then but he avoided it.

    October 9, 2011 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  17. freetime1

    All religion by definition is a cult.

    1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

    2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
    3. the object of such devotion.
    4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
    5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

    But many religious people get mad when you tell them this. By definition of the word "cult" he is correct in saying that he was/is a member of a cult group. What he left out was that he is too lol!

    October 9, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  18. onwubolu ikechuku

    What a SHAME! This is religious fanaticism, Jesus Christ said " my kingdom is not of this world" He had all it takes to be king over Isreal then but he avoided it.

    October 9, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  19. grovestreet

    Does it really matter? Both "religions" are based on fictional accounts anyway, so in that respect they're pretty similar.

    October 9, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  20. Mtta

    When Rev. J eremiah W right's disciple was elected in 2008, Jeffress didn't voice any objection. I guess anti-Americanism is more tolerable to him than Mormonism which teaches people to become good citizens of a society. As a religious leader, he should teach love and tolerance, not hate and intolerance. He shouldn't belong to any congregation which represents God.

    October 9, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  21. sir_ken_g

    The GOP nomination may well come down to a Mormon and a black. Oh whatever will the bigots do?

    October 9, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  22. SBrown

    According to this pastor, calling the LDS church a 'cult' is based upon the fact that the church was 'started' by a person without divine starting starting, claiming a religion is started by some supernatural being, ie. Jesus I suppose.
    By his definition, the Baptist church is also a cult, since it was started in the 1600's, not even close in temporal proximity to the time Jesus allegedly ' lived on earth'. Apply Jeffress 'logic' he proves beyond any doubt the Baptist religion is also a cult, and always has been. so much hate in the name of their 'god'.

    October 9, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. ralphie

    Robert Jeffries! Judge not and you shall not be judged- becasue on judgement day you shall be judgedvin the same manner

    October 9, 2011 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  24. hank

    Interesting, how this guy quotes John Jay like it was Holy Writ. This was 1788–have we not advanced in our thinking since then. If you are a Christian don't vote for a Jew?? That is what he is saying. Defies logic.

    October 9, 2011 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  25. Danielle

    Thank you Bro. Jeffress for your willingness to stand up for our faith and what the Bible holds as true.

    October 9, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
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