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. Maine LIberal

    Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints not christian

    Morman Choir doesnt sing christmas carols

    October 8, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  2. PastorRuss

    This pastor definately has a right to have his own opinions. It's just sad that a man of God is so narrow minded. We all need to celebrate diversity – just look at all those smiling faces on their web site. At least they have a "token" female among the white male line up.

    October 8, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. Greyman

    Ah, but for more and more people, religion DOESN'T matter. And this change is freaking out the evangelicals even more, causing them to retreat further into their Biblical echo chamber.

    October 8, 2011 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  4. Dave in Indy

    I strongly suspect John Jay had significant prejudices – nearly every white person in the U.S. saw black persons as being of inferior intellect and social abilities. You might want to choose a more contemporary model for your views. Then again, you may well NOT.

    October 8, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. dan

    the religious right and the republicans are nothing but hateful bigots

    they are not true christians

    October 8, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  6. Lenny

    I cannot believe that this pastor, who has a congregation of over 10 thousand people would say such a bigoted thing. To call someone's religion, a religion with 14 million adherents in the US, a "cult", he is not only insulting anyone who is not an evangelical Christian, he is demonstrating his own bigotry and ignorance. Everyone who claims to be a Christian should reject this mans rants. He proves why there must always be separation of Church and State because he freely admits a candidate's religion is more important than his competency.

    October 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. longshot

    bigot, but then again, no surprise here

    October 8, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  8. Donald Gwynne

    I'm not quite sure why we accepted Texas into the United States,

    October 8, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  9. Not_Lqqking

    Wait a minute! Is anyone surprised that there is religious bigotry, h3ll for that matter, is anyone surprised that bigotry exists in massive amounts in the republican party?

    October 8, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  10. Bob

    Bigots have a history of hiding behind everything from white hoods to religion and most recently, politics. This idiot thinks Perry would make a better president then Romney. However, I don't hear him commenting about Perry's 'rock' at his hunting camp! Just the fact that Perry is a 'christian' doesn't make him a better person or candidate. Perry is a bigot and an idiot!

    October 8, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  11. RickyGibson

    Interesting quote from Bill Bennett against bigotry who, during the last presidential campaign, went out of his way to point out that Mr. Obama's name was "Hussein" on CNN.

    I wonder what that was all about.

    October 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  12. TruAmericanB

    Perry is desparate and will use anyone and any tactic to get ahead. The only thing is that when Perry or his supporters open their mouths, Perry falls farther behind. And that is a good thing.

    October 8, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  13. Tim

    I certainly hope that since his mega-church has now become a PAC (due to his attempt at swaying voters towards a "more christian" candidate in his opinion) they immediately lose their tax-exempt status.

    October 8, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. Jabo James

    If Mormonism is a cult so was Christianity. Many forget that a long time ago, withing the Jewish Mediterranean world, the first Christians were Jews & were considered members of a cult.An astute philosopher once said: "A cult is a religion that has yet to gain legitimacy; a religion is a former cult that has barely attained it."

    October 8, 2011 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  15. Floyd

    I am not religious, though am not anti-religion either. Personally, I believe that any political candidate that plans to emphasize a religious background as a reason to vote for or against a candidate, should remember that the USA is full of people that espouse a specific religion. Emphasizing a candidate's religion as a reason to vote for (or against) that candidate, will not get my vote. Think about it...

    October 8, 2011 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  16. mike

    So the pastor, in defense of his position that no Mormon should ever be president for the sake of his or her religion, says that John Jay could "hardly" be considered a bigoted person. Really? Does the good pastor not know that John Jay once fought for a law that would have barred all Catholics from holding office? Hmm, sounds similar to what the pastor is espousing right now.

    October 8, 2011 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  17. Jeffress said

    Sht Merchant who has not been humbled

    October 8, 2011 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  18. popeye47

    The last person I would recommend for President is a Christian. Bush the last person to run on him being a Christian, led us into 2 wars and a great recession among other things. No thanks to the religious view.

    October 8, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  19. First Baptist Yahoos

    Fake jesus people doing their fake impression of Christianity

    October 8, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. BigSwede

    If churches are going to get into politics they should lose their tax exemption. Otherwise, they should stick to talking to their invisible friend and shut up.

    October 8, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  21. Dave

    The pastor is right. Just look up who the Mormons believe Jesus is. Then look at who they think Joseph Smith is. Then look up the definition of "cult," as true Christians see it. The pastor is right.

    October 8, 2011 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. pam

    unbelievable. this man calls himself the man of god and he seperates people by their beliefs and believes only christians can be president. which planet he is from? there are millions in this country that are christian yet they are American like anyone else.

    October 8, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  23. Karma6338

    God help us all. "You can show a preference without being a bigot"....that sir is the very definition of bigotry. Geesh!

    October 8, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  24. runner305

    Robert Jeffress–Yet another fanatical, narrow-minded idiot making a juvenile comment

    October 8, 2011 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  25. LLOYD ROBERTS

    Many of the founding fathers were deists, they believed in a supreme creator but they were very wary of organized religion. Part of the reason they and their ancestors came here, to escape the organized church. Listening to this mega-church creature, and one can see the amazing wisdom of the founding fathers loathing of organized religion

    October 8, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
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