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
Perry needs the pastors check and vote.......Of course he's not going to attack the pastors statement..He has to go back to Texas when he loses ...
Rick Bush can forget it. Wingnuts crowned Romney months ago. Their teabaggers can get lost in Alaska with Snooki Palin.
It's all fake. It's myth, legend and folklore. There are no deities or demons or fairies or leprechauns. No heaven or hell. Just live life and be nice to others, enjoy without hurting anyone
These are the people Perry hangs out with. He is as far right as you can get...except on the national stage. He gets his jollies making these type of comments (or his friends comments) and laughs all the way to the bank.
It is good that this all came out in the open. I am very concerned about the influence the Mormon Church would have on a Mormon President. The head of their Church is called the "Prophet" who supposedly talks directly to God. How could a President who was once a Bishop of his Church ignore the word of God when the Prophet tells him how to go on policy issues. And, the Morman Church has already demonstrated its ability to financially impact policy in California when it donated $27M towards the Proposition 8 initiative.
of course he avoided it, because his base is also a bunch of bigots and he doesn't want to disappoint them
Avoidance is Politics. Religion avoidance is way of life in politics, because, that idiot pastor clearly told Mormonism is cult and all religions are cult. So, He is using this as a tool, one thing for sure, he does not deserve, nor qualify to be POTUS. America is not that stupid. Today's America is not Yesterday's Reagan World. It knows. It is Obama, that ordered to kill Bin Laden, It is Obama that passed Health Care Reform that this nation ever needed, it is Obama, we are financially intact means, he passed very needed reform, i.e, Fin. Reg. Reform. OK, truth, truth, and truth...Wake up, America, Today, Working Class Protests because yesterday's GOP mess...true, Obama2012.
As far as I'm concerned, religion has no place in politics. Period. "True 'Christian'?" "Only a 'Christian' should be President?" This is total garbage. Keep god, jesus, christianity, and whatever, out of our government. Our country is just plain nuts when it comes to this stuff.
Perry's not going to take a strong stand, it would alienate some of his most ardent supporters.
I have no doubt that Jeffress also considers Catholicism to be a "cult"; the evil nature of Catholicism is a traditional teaching of many Protestant denominations including the Baptists.
What I'm waiting for is for Pat "We deserved to be bombed on 9-11 for our sins" Robertson to join the fray.
And perhaps the Baptists who pray for our soldiers to be killed and then show up at our soldiers' funeral to condemn the dead soldiers as sinners.
This IS the Perry base.
Is this Perry's version of Jeremiah Wright?
It just goes to show that people only hear what they want to. I'm not a Perry fan but "full in-state tuition" isn't a FREE ride in any dictionary.
I will not vote for anyone who touts their religion or lack thereof. I will vote on the issues and qualifications.
It's downright deserving that anybody born and raised in this country could be so uneducated about its founding principles as to believe that only one religion was meant to be given rights. The founding fathers made it explicitly clear that all spiritual paths would be protected and that none would be favored by government. Our education system is failing us as this religious fanaticism grows.
The Republican/Tparty is the party of lies, hate, lunacy, igrnorance and exploitation. Nothing like having these bigots turn on each other to underscore the hypocrisy of all of them.
I am so tired of these candidates bickering about religion. Get religion out of the election. Get religion out of government. The GOP is saying how government should be less involved in our lives, then they constantly ram religion down our throats. With all the problems we have in this country is that all the GOP has to throw at us? Is that all we have to listen to from the GOP? I think it is disgusting!
Part of the Mormon faith is that Mormons strive to become Gods. It's in the book for Mormon. That flies in the face of most all tenants on Christianity.
Perry is history he cant handle the big times..we all knew it
Of course he denies being a bigot – he knows he's tight.
Look at all the hateful emails that Conservative Christians send out about the Presidnet not being a citizen, or that he never went to college, or that he's not qualified because he's black.
Their not bigoted, either.
Why does Perry belong to a church that practices racial discrimination? The SBC allows a color line at the church door, just like Aryan Nation.
Hey Texas Turkey if you keep refusing to answer the comments of your followers or sponsors then you are and will continue to convince Americans that you are not competent enough to hold such a high office. You are not dumb and should be able to see that you and your plans to become the GOP candidate are flawed and the polls show it . You Mr GOP candidate are and will continue to dissappearfrom this process due to your inability to be honest and that is not conducive to be a Presidential contender. BYE BYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Good thing the founding fathers included a separation of church and state.