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. gl

    Of course Jeffress is a bigot. And his church is no church at all.

    October 8, 2011 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  2. Carey

    John Jay also was chief justic when slavery still existed. If we follow him, does that mean that Christians have a responsbility to ensure that slavery is still the law of the land???

    October 8, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. Mr Everyman

    Just as JFK had to explain that he would not be the Pope's puppet, taking orders from the Pope as President, Mitt Romney has to explain that he will not be the Mormon Prophet's puppet, he will not be taking orders from the Mormon Prophet as President. The public sees the enormous dictatorial power of the FLDS Prophet over the personal lives of FLDS members and should be made confident that similar relationships would not exist between the LDS Prophet and a President Romney.

    October 8, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Name king

    Hey for some reason all of a sudden it's bigotry, but when these same yahoos levels unfounded birtherism, Obama is a Muslim, rev wright, you name it and some how they are justified. Hey the unfounded crap what this president went through is is nothing compare to mitten. I guest he's feeling some of what he's been encouraging the yahoos in his party to level against this president first hand and I bet it doesn't feel good huh mitten.

    October 8, 2011 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  5. Bill

    Pastor denies bigotry. What the hell does he call it?? He looks like Perry's jeremiah Wright!!

    October 8, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  6. Mike Dallas

    "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"

    Citing a chief justice as an authority on religion?

    So, according to this slack-jawed backwater baptist, when Chief Justice John Roberts made corporations "people", he is now a "christian" Messiah with the power of "giving life"? .

    Looks like making a tree is the only thing God has the authority to do and Jesus must be completely out of the loop, with that whole "help the poor" nonsense!

    If we get to pick and choose who the "poor" are and how/if we help, who needs Jesus?

    The money changers have taken over the temple.

    October 8, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    He can deny all day long......it's still bigotry.

    October 8, 2011 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  8. Severinus

    As usual...anyone who says "I'm not a bigot but..." usually follows it up with something really bigoted.

    October 8, 2011 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  9. gil

    Though I cringe at the possibility of another redneck, kneejerk-response, foot-in-mouth Texan baptist president, unfortunately I think it may be the lesser of two evils than having a brainwashed Mormon one who would embolden his cult even more. Even though I'm sure the best redneck Perry could do was generate tons of low earning crap fast-food jobs like he did in his own state. Oh yeah, and consistently offend every other country in the world as his doppelganger GW Bush did.

    October 8, 2011 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. Lou

    I would be interested in hearing why Jeffress chooses a Christian over a non-Christian. Is it because Christians are morally superior? That would be a difficult case to make. Is it because Christian values are superior to other values? Well that's a matter of belief and as long as one is able to live according to one's own values, I cannot see how this would matter. Why does religion matter?

    October 8, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  11. Iced Tea

    This is all nonsense and has nothing to do with the economy, jobs, and the wars we are still fighting. Religious bigot have always existed and will never go away until religions go away.

    October 8, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  12. Derp Hat

    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."

    -

    Wow. Just wow.

    October 8, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  13. Severinus

    As usual. Anyone who says 'I am not a bigot, but' usually follows it up with something really bigoted.

    October 8, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  14. Linas

    I support and applaud the answer given by the Pastor, especially the last statement heard in the clip.

    October 8, 2011 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. Severinus

    My better comment is awaiting moderation. Apparently, you are not allowed to use the word b1g0t when commenting on this article about b1g0try. Interesting.

    October 8, 2011 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  16. Jim Jensen

    I don't think Jeffress can explain convincingly why any religion is more or less nutty than another. This guy epitomizes how, if you go down the road of religious belief, all bets are off where you end up.

    October 8, 2011 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  17. Kilcardy

    Religion is all nonsense. It's just men...trying to control other men...that's it. Religion has nothing to do with a higher power, and everything to do with humans using the higher power as an excuse to abuse others.

    October 8, 2011 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  18. gypsydaveywithablowtorch

    People really believe that you must be a Christian to be elected in this country? Wow, for that reason alone, we must do all we can to see that their candidates of choice don't get elected!

    October 8, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  19. Tired of the nonsense

    "Those of us that are evangelicals have every right to prefer and select a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian."

    And those of us who know that a religion is just a series of rituals and rules belonging to a belief system but is not the belief system itself have every right to prefer and select a competent and intelligent AMERICAN over someone who would rather disparage and insult others for being part of a particular religion.

    October 8, 2011 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  20. Dawn

    Hah, the raven calling the crow black. Every megachurch is a different cult, by every definition of the word.

    October 8, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. Jeremy

    Of course, religion should ALWAYS trump competence when selecting our leaders. Isn't that how close-minded individuals begin restricting the freedoms of everyone else?

    October 8, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. Tanker

    This is why I'm an Atheist.

    October 8, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  23. Donald in CA

    Its folks like rev. jefferess and his right wing cronies who are a danger to america. He hides behing the bible to sprew his hate. I wonder how he feels about muslims, gays, black folks and mexican americans. If this fraud of a minister gets into heaven, so will charles manson. It was so much hate in his face you could feel it thru the tv screen.

    October 8, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  24. Who?

    This man is the true cultist. Brainwashed.

    October 8, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  25. Itsmyfault

    When his church and organization stop hiding behind religon and pay taxes I will listen to his political views.

    October 8, 2011 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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