(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."
By placing a religious litmus test above competency, this "pastor" has expressed nothing BUT bigotry. He and his ilk represent the American Taliban. Having said that, if they have a right to impose a test, the rest of the country has the same right to condemn them for their intolerance and bigotry.
it's so reassuring that a certain segment of the electorate vote based solely on a candidate's stated religion. in fact, i am so reassured that i have decided from now on only to vote for people whose first name's start with O. tough luck Perry, you'll have to change your name to Otis to get my vote. i also believe this church should lose all tax exempt status since it has decided to inform it's congregation on whom to vote for. keep your religion out of politics!
I don't disagree with anyone's right to choose who they vote for for President and they can use religion as a factor in that if they want. But, using the term "cult" for a church that has 14 Million members worldwide is bigoted and prejorative, especially since they're AT LEAST as Christian as Baptists and clearly FAR MORE so than this guy.
And the baptist church is not a cult????
Mr. Jeffress, the US is NOT a theocracy. Yes, religion matters but in religious affairs, not government of, by and for people of various religions or no religion. "Render unto Caesar" sir. And open your heart up more to others who are not like you.
"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."
He added, "The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart." By Mitt Romney.
Sorry guy, but you are a bigot and definitely not a Christian.
Can't help but wonder... did this megachurch pastor actually say that christians should votes AGAINST Romney ??? Last time I checked, you could vote FOR candidates...
Newsflash: organized religion is all about exclusion; not inclusion. Being a member of any religion empowers them to determine who is NOT one of them. It deflects from having the light placed on them.
There fundamental criteria that differeniates a religion from a cult. A religion someone can join or leave, a cult you can only join. In the modern world there is only one major religion that qualifies as a cult. They routinely call for the death of an apostate.
Maybe Pastor Jeffress is trying to make the point, without coming right out and saying it, that the rest of us should vote against Evangelicals simply because of their religion. I'm not sure I agree, but now that he's brought it up I will definitely have to think about it.
Every pastor is a bigot period. Mormon's, Catholics are all garbage.
Wow – wonder how he feels about Catholics and Jews? (I'm pretty sure I know how he feels about atheists).
What an idiot you are, Robert Jeffress. You are so ignorant. How can any of your followers believe what you say? You know not what you speak of.
I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to heaven is through Jesus. I am married to a Mormon. He believes as I do and so does all his family who are staunch Mormons. They are true Christians, better Christians than most others who proclaim to be.
Why is everyone so afraid of the Mormon faith (LDS)? This is all a political push for Rick Perry. Shame on you Perry and Jeffress.
Insert other foot. Did Jeffress even define what being Christian is? Because the only definition I've heard of is, someone who believes in Christ.
Believers and non-believers may be offended by Jeffress statement. Jeffress statements would seem to indicate that only a select few are worthy of the office President.
Of course he is a bigot and a fool. He is also not a very good Christian.
Jeffress is just another example of a dirtbag posing aa a religious leader. Can you say Fred Phelps and Warren Jeffs
Just an example of a racist but on a religious level – just a bunch of ying yangs, you should take your religious fevor and go away you idiots!
The problem is that there are no competent Christians running for president. I rather have a Mormon that lives what he believes than a hypocrite that says is a Christian and lives like a sinner. A real Christian is the one that loves his neighbor as himself, not the one that does not allow a human being to have all his rights respected in an earthly court. Perry is not a person of trust.
Jeffries is a bigot! And perhaps a facist! But I would suggest here that Jeffries is not worthy of our concern. Mr. Jeffries can argue about what matters in his religion after he arrives in hell. Meanwhile, God blesses us all; regardless of our Earthly liturgy. Shame on Jeffries! He does mankind or our country "no service" with his disgusting hateful comments.
Don Juan, the world's greatest Baptist.
I'm not religious
These people mean nothing to me or my family
Keep repeating that and you'll eventually see the true light.
Most racist's and bigot's will deny that they're racist's and bigots, so this ignorant "man of God's" comments aren't surprising, not his denial that he's a bigot. If it walk's like a duck...
Which is exactly why organized religion has hit a new low in popularity. If Gov. Perry is the "right kind of Christian" then I challenge him to give up all material things including income from big pharma. These guys don't preach what Jesus would do, they preach what they want us to do, and we ain't buyin' it.
Let's face it, if you're not Christian, you're either Jewish, Buddist, Muslim, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, or some split off from the evangelical christian movement, or don't believe at all. We are educated thinking people who should know when to speak and know when to shut our mouths. This evangelical Christian pastor is just another reason I vote Democratic. Forget the religion and focus on the issues and you'll earn the votes.
Bigots never think they are bigots.