October 24th, 2007
05:30 PM ET
15 years ago

Romney loses prominent evangelical endorsement

Romney lost the support of a prominent South Carolina minister.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Dr. Don Wilton, the former head of the South Carolina Baptist convention, recanted his endorsement of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney Wednesday, just days after announcing his support.

The Romney campaign has touted Wilton's endorsement, along with that of Bob Jones University president Bob Jones III, as signs that evangelical leaders in South Carolina were putting aside reservations over Romney's Mormon faith and siding with the candidate based on his family values.

In a statement released by Baptist News, a Southern Baptist publication, Wilton said he made a "personal mistake" and that, until now, he had never endorsed a presidential candidate.

"While I did give my consent to the local campaign to use my affirmation of the governor's stance on family values in my capacity as an individual citizen, I made the mistake of not realizing the extent to which it would be used on a national basis," Wilton said in the statement.

He added that: "I will continue to use my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as the only standard by which I determine who to vote for in any election."

When Wilton endorsed Romney on October 19, the campaign issued a statement from Wilton saying, "While we may not agree on theology, Gov. Romney and I agree that this election is about our country heading in the right direction."

On Wednesday, Romney spokesperson Kevin Madden said he respects the decision.

"Rev. Wilton is a great leader in the community and we respect any decision he makes regarding his involvement with the campaign," Madden said.

In an interview with CNN in February, Wilton discussed his views of Mormonism.

"All politicians are people of deep and abiding personal conviction. I can tell you Governor Romney appears to me to be a man of deep and abiding conviction," Wilton said in the interview with CNN. "I would say that we need to sit down and enter into a dialogue with Gov. Romney, the same way we would enter into a dialogue with anybody who is running for that political office. On a personal level, Mormonism does make me nervous, because I am a Christian, and because the precepts and principles, and more importantly, the practices of Mormonism have cause for great concern."

"But I am going to tell you this. The people of the Mormon religion are very highly astute, highly family-oriented, deeply character-driven people. They are very fine people. This is not a conversation about a person, it is about a religion that drives a person to do what he does," he added.

Wilton went on to say he would want to explore the religious background of any person running for president that participated in a religion different from his. Wilton was the only religious leader in the Spartanburg, South Carolina area that was willing to speak on camera with CNN in February about the potential difficulties Romney may face in that Southern evangelical community.

Even though Wilton’s statement retracting his endorsement indicates the pastor did not know how much play his words would get on the national stage, it’s worth noting the pastor and his church boast quite a savvy media operation. An in-house multi-camera set-up shoots and broadcasts church services via TV, radio and the Internet, and there is an employee who holds the title Minister of Media.

- CNN's Peter Hamby and Sasha Johnson

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. jw, canadian,ok

    You bible-thumpers gotta real problem, don't you?

    October 25, 2007 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  2. Mike, U.S. Air Force, New Braunfels, Texas

    Romney (at least currently) has a solid stand on important conservative social issues. However, he has altered his stance from previously held non-conservative views. Much of his current popularity is due to a huge fund-raising machine and personal wealth. He attempts to pander to conservative Christian voters by allowing his constituents to make the FALSE CLAIM that he is also a Christian. Although I am a Christian, I believe it is wrong according to our constitution to hold his religious beliefs against him. But is is ALSO wrong to allow his FALSE CLAIMS of Christianity to continue. Jesus also has a place in the Muslim faith but they do not claim to be Christians. Romney is a good man, but not the best candidate for me or many Christian conservatives (if beliefs are the issue). The best candidate for me, Christian conservatives, and everyone is someone who believes, as TRUE Christians do, that you don't hold a persons beliefs against them, or persecute them for their beliefs. It's someone who gives equal treatment to all, and gives love to all people of all religions. The better candidate...the BEST candidate is MIKE HUCKABEE.

    October 25, 2007 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. Craig, Missouri City, Texas

    To Glenn in Provo, I would say no, it does not mean all "dark skinned people" are cursed, it means that individual people or village was cursed. Although I try not to make a habit of putting limits on what God can and cannot do...guess he could curse whomever he chooses, whenever he chooses.

    October 25, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Glenn, Provo, Utah

    Shawnie, please help me understand more. If the Lamanites were cursed, and the curse is relevant via dark skin, then all native American Indians are "cursed"?

    As I read in the preface of the same Book of Mormon, the Lamanites are the ancestors of the American Indian. As we all know American Indians are dark skinned – so according to the Book of Mormon all American Indians are a cursed people?

    Thanks – Glenn

    October 25, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. Todd, Las Vegas Nevada

    I have no issues with people who question Romneys "Flip-Flopping" stances and won't vote for him on that. But those that will not Vote for him because he is of a certain faith, come on now, you are the same that would not Vote for Obama besause he is Black, and would not vote on Hilary because she is a woman, or would not vote for Liberman because he is Jewish.
    I believe you all that fit this type to be uneducated, easily influenced, racist, bigotted, hateful, spiteful, unhappy people that only wish others to feel as unhappy, lost, lonely, and unforgiving as yourselves. I have not decided whom I will vote for, but I know my decision will not be based on the Race, Religion, or Gender of any candidate. I enjoy reading the well educated, sincere comments on these Posts. I enjoy the different views of others, but it is easy to pick out those that are uninformed, and ignorant, and disregard them as the described above.

    October 25, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Steve Wittlake Blaine Washington

    AJ of San Antonio
    Yes Jesus is God but he is only the God of this earth not Elohim who is the God of the Universe. Jesus is also known as Jehovah in the Old Testement
    before he was born Jesus Christ in the flesh. And yes, He was a spirit God when he was Jehovah a fact most Jewish people failed to recognize even though they were told he would be coming. Sacrifices by the Isreali people were in similitude of his future sacrifice on the cross.

    October 25, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. Richard, NY, NY

    Todd in LV –

    I agree with your statements. I too think people should exercise tolerance. However, I think those who have posted messages that oppose Mr. Romney's faith are expressing that they will not vote for a person because of his or her belief.

    I think most people vote for a person because they share the candidates beliefs.

    With that said, all sides should be heard on this debate...

    October 25, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Tim, Ogden, UT

    Hey Todd in LV,

    Quit being such a wimp. There is nothing wrong with debate. If you are unaware, it is called Freedom of Speech.

    Even the Mormon apologists have their opportunity to defend their religion. So pull up your panties and get back in the debate.

    October 25, 2007 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  9. Glenn, Provo UT

    Do you need a tissue now?

    October 25, 2007 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  10. Peter, Washington D.C

    AJ of San Antonio – don't be mislead. Here is the complete objective definition of "Elohim", not a subjective definition to meet one's religious agenda:

    Elohim is the common name for God. It is a plural form, but "The usage of the language gives no support to the supposition that we have in the plural form Elohim, applied to the God of Israel, the remains of an early polytheism, or at least a combination with the higher spiritual beings" (Kautzsch).

    According to Renan (Histoire du peuple d'Israel, I, p. 30) the Semites believed that the world is surrounded, penetrated, and governed by the Elohim, myriads of active beings, analogous to the spirits of the savages, alive, but somehow inseparable from one another, not even distinguished by their proper names as the gods of the Aryans, so that they can be considered as a confused totality. Marti (Geschichte der israelitischen Religion, p. 26), too, finds in Elohim a trace of the original Semitic polydemonism; he maintains that the word signified the sum of the divine beings that inhabited any given place. Baethgen (op. cit., p. 287), F.C. Baur (Symbolik und Mythologie, I, 304), and Hellmuth-Zimmermann (Elohim, Berlin, 1900) make Elohim an expression of power, grandeur, and totality. Lagrange (op. cit., p. 78) urges against these views that even the Semitic races need distinct units before they have a sum, and distinct parts before that arrive at a totality. Moreover, the name El is prior to Elohim (op. cit., p. 77 sq.) and El is both a proper and a common name of God. Originally it was either a proper name and has become a common name, or it was a common name has become a proper name. In either case, El, and, therefore, also its derivative form Elohim, must have denoted the one true God. This inference becomes clear after a little reflection. If El was, at first, the proper name of a false god, it could not become the common name of a false god, it could not become the common name for deity any more than Jupiter or Juno could; and if it was, at first, the common name for deity, it could become the proper name only of that God who combined in him all the attributes of deity, who was the one true God. This does not imply that all the Semitic races had from the beginning a clear concept of God's unit and Divine attributes, though all had originally the Divine name El.


    VIGOUROUX in Dict. de la Bible, s.v.; KNABENBAUER, Lexicon Biblicum (Paris, 1907), II, 63; KAUTZSCH in Encyclopaedia Biblica (New York, 1902), III, 3323 sq.; LAGRANGE, Etudes sur les religions semitiques (Paris, 1905), 19, 71, 77 sqq.

    October 26, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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