Washington (CNN) - Addressing the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chided a controversial conservative leader who has denounced Mormonism.
The former Massachusetts governor, whose family has deep ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made no mention of the clamor surrounding Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who called Mormonism a "cult" after appearing at the summit on Friday.
But Romney did take aim at Bryan Fischer, a director at the American Family Association, who was slated to speak directly after the candidate took the stage Saturday.
Fischer has claimed that Mormons and Muslims have "a completely different definition of who Christ is" than the founding fathers did, and do not deserve First Amendment protections as a consequence.
Without naming Fischer, Romney said those comments are out of bounds.
"One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line," Romney said. "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."
Few in the audience appeared to catch the reference and some were left wondering if Romney was firing back at Jeffress, but Romney's campaign said the remarks were directed at Fischer.
Fischer took the stage moments later. While he did not single out Mormonism, he said the next president "needs to be a man of sincere authentic genuine Christian faith."
"We need a president who believes in the same creator as who the founders believed," he added.
The Jeffress controversy continued to simmer Saturday at the conference, which was sponsored by the conservative Family Research Council.
Speaking before Romney, former Education Secretary and radio host Bill Bennett weighed in on Jeffress, calling the pastor's comments "bigotry."
"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."
Romney praised Bennett for his speech, saying he "hit it out of the park."
- CNN's Jim Acosta contributed to this report.
Perry on pastor's Mormonism remark: 'I don't think it is' a cult
Conservative pastor on Romney: Don't vote for a Mormon
the republican party the party of bigots. They need to loose all thes tea baggers and christian nut jobs to be be viable to the majority. right now they are acting like a bunch of clowns.
religion is just too ugly sometimes, so distant from the teachings of Jesus
Since the "founders" were largely deists or agnostics – I don't think any of the republicans would fit Fischer's criteria. How about, instead, following the founders' wishes of a true separation of church and state. Get religion out of politics! These people are the Christian version of the Taliban.
religion brings out the worst of mankind you dont have to belong to a religion to believe in God quite the contrary..most of the evil in this world has been born in one religious belief or another
I am outraged at this preacher chiding Romney for his faith. It was grossly unfair. I'm a Baptist and if this preacher is a Baptist the I say to hell with him.
Agree George.This type of extreme teabagger media spin will sky rocket Romney in the polls. Keep talking whako pastor and nutjobs Amy Kraemer , Palin, Perry. America is gettin it now!! Teabaggers are on the way out.
Values Voter Summit? Has anybody listened to the diatribes at this event? I can see millions of independents running, screaming, arms in the air, into the relative sanity of the Democratic camp . . .
Voter Values Summit? Has anybody listened to the diatribes at this event? I can see millions of independents running, screaming, arms in the air, toward the relative sanity of the Democratic camp . . .
Preach his faith when defending himself, but completely neglect it when firing missives at the President!
Scary! How do you sleep at night Mitt? Karma is a great equalizer. The reward you get at the end of all this will be commensurate with the amount of BS you are shoveling.
The founding fathers said, "All men are created equal." Apparently many in the GOP believe this is true only if you are a christian.
Mornonism declares itself as the "True Church" and everyone else is false. So Those who don't follow the book of Moroni is doomed, unless they "baptize" when you are dead, if not alive. The Bible that Christians follow is very plain that those who preach this "another gospel" are not followers of Christ. Mormonism merely uses the name of Christ. To Christians, Mormonism is another religion just like Islam. If you don't like this, go compare the Bible and the book of Mormons and you might understand.
Even Romney can't escape the scrutiny of the fundamenalist religious leaders, it seems. They are giving my Christian religion a bad name.
These evangelists bug me to no end, and if the GOP keeps going in the direction their going I'll have little choice but to choose Obama – and I'm not that fond of him either.
I think that, as the Republicans feel free to condemn others who do not have the same beliefs as they do (gays, Muslims, etc), they should be prepared for others who attack their beliefs. They should not be shocked or upset. They should either expect it or change their hateful ways. A Christian (or any other faith) can still love God and be respectful of others. None of the Republican candidates have shown that respect. So – you have Republicans who are against anyone who doesn't believe the same as they do – and you have Republicans who are against each other because they don't believe the same as the other Republican. Our leaders? I think not!
Let these right-wing religious nuts tear each other apart. And the candidates deserve what they get for placating and appealing to these people who have no respect for anyone that differs with them on their narrow-minded religious agenda.
Many liars, aka Democrats, say that the so called religious right Christians (the ones Obama says are the enemy who cling to their guns and religion) wont vote for a Mormon.
This is simply not true, Mitt will get the vote over Obama, they'd rather have a Mormon in the White House than a moron (Moore-on).
Like 98% of all Republicans I respect every persons own personal relationship with their god (even Cnn's with Obama). I remember when they said that Obama was a Muslim, I really wish that were so, Islam and its followers for the most part are beautiful people, unlike the Democrats who worship at the church of National Socialism.
Any right wing Christian who claims the founding fathers had the same faith as them doen't know their history. The founding fathers were men of the enlightenment. The only Christian among them was John Jay.
Which religion thinks they're the only ones that are correct and sanctioned by god? And, is this a good thing?
Separation of church and state!
Too bad. I watched the event and the idea that first-amendment protection should not be extended to non-Christians was borderline treasonous to our (American) ideals.
Unfortunately, free speech is a right still extended to idiots. And both sides have their fair share of loudmouthed morons because as we all know, the dumbest animal makes the largest sound.
If you read the Age of Reason written by Thomas Paine, a patriot who strongly influence America's revolution against England anyone would realize the founding fathers were Deists, not Christian. Hence this country was founded on freedom of religion not any one belief. Anyone who espouses to be a certain religion should demonstrate their beliefs in their behavior, not just their words.
Totally agree with some of the posters here. Keep religion as far away from politics as humanly possible.
The Tea Party is the only cult I'm worried about right now.
Ron Paul won this straw poll. let's see if you even mention it.
One day I hope that we can all finally realize that God is a man-made illusion, and to lives our lives together in peace and harmony.