Orange City, Iowa (CNN) - As others condemn the words of one of Rick Perry's supporters, the Texas governor himself did not want to talk about the brewing controversy while at a campaign appearance in Iowa on Saturday.
Though the Republican presidential candidate openly answered voters' questions about some of his controversial positions regarding Social Security and illegal immigration, Perry would not discuss the political firestorm sparked after prominent Southern pastor Robert Jeffress said Republicans should vote against fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney because he is Mormon. Jeffress added that the Mormon faith a "cult."
"Governor, do you think that Mitt Romney is a Christian?" a reporter asked Perry after a meet-and-greet with voters in Iowa's western Orange City.
"I think we addressed that issue yesterday," Perry responded.
What Perry said late Friday evening did stand in stark disagreement with Jeffress' words.
When asked if he believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult, Perry responded Friday: "No. I don't think it is."
But the fact that he did not denounce Jeffress' words outright – and his deflections Saturday on further questioning – could keep the controversy on full boil instead of lowering it to a simmer.
For his part, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, defended religious freedom at a conservative gathering in Washington on Saturday. Just before Romney spoke, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett called Jeffress' comments "bigotry."
Despite his tight-lipped answers on Jeffress' comments, Perry took questions on other issues from voters at the Saturday event.
As Perry worked the small room of voters, one young man asked Perry about his plans for Social Security for young people.
"We have to re-work it," Perry replied. "We've got to give you some options that allow you to have the choice of whether you want the government to continue to operate it for you – or maybe a private account that you control. That makes sense to me."
Another voter questioned Perry on the Texas law that provides in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants.
"You have the young people that are coming in from Mexico, the young college students you are talking about – you give them a free ride to go to college," the woman said.
"My question is about the other young people that are going to college. They have to pay these enormous fees – my son is one of them. There should be some way that they can go free," the woman added.
"It's not a free ride. I don't know where you're hearing that," Perry said.
The governor explained that Texas has long grappled with the issue, given the porous U.S.-Mexican border.
"We had to make a decision: are we going to have tax wasters or taxpayers?" Perry said. "And the people of the state of Texas [decided] that they were going to have full, in-state tuition for those young people to pay. They have to pursue citizenship. At that particular point in time, they would become taxpayers and be part of the skilled workforce."
"No free ride at all," Perry told the woman.
"Well, it sounds like it," the woman responded.
- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN