October 24th, 2007
05:30 PM ET
13 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. Daniel

    He did not really lose it, the man still said he liked Romney's position. The latest LA Times poll has Giuliani strong among religious voters though most of them don't know what his positions are. Check the poll here.

    October 24, 2007 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. wilson, seattle,wa

    you see, I told you Romney, Another slip in your endorsement. Now, go take a nap!

    October 24, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. james,wilmington, mass

    Now let your mormonism show how good you are. I don't think someone who went abroad to preach would send a hate message to the same people he care for. I quit listening to you!

    October 24, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. JKap, Schaumburg, IL

    Well, Mitt still has Larry Craig as a supporter!

    October 24, 2007 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. Dave, Denton, Texas

    As a Mormon, I am grateful for the God given rights we enjoy in this country to vote for the candidate of our chosing – regardless of the person's age, gender or even religion. Ultimately, citizens will select the candidate they think will be the best leader for our nation.

    I am not troubled by the retracted endorsement of Mitt Romney. I am most concerned with the continual allegation that Mormons are not Christian.

    Please consider the following:

    1. The church's name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Jesus Christ is clearly at the center of our faith.
    2. The Bible used the word Saint to describe a person who, although imperfect, attempts to follow Jesus Christ (Psalms 50:5; Dan 7:18; Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Eph 2:19).
    3. The Book of Mormon directly states "there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent" (Mosiah 3: 17).

    My guess is that the repeated allegations that Mormons are not Christians is due to the fact that we do not believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are the same being. We believe this for many reasons:

    Jesus said he was sent from God.
    Jesus prayed to God.
    When Jesus was baptized, God's voice was heard from heaven and the Holy Ghost decended in the form of a dove.
    Stephen saw a vision of God and Jesus standing on His right side.
    John 17:3 states "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

    For these reasons, and without attacking the faith of others, we do not believe in the Trinity as taught 3rd or 4th century Christian doctrine or in reformed Christianity. Instead, we believe in the restoration of Christian doctrine. see http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-775-15,00.html

    While all Christians have theological differences regarding tithing, Sabbath day observance, grace vs. works, etc., they are all Christians nonetheless.

    We respect others' beliefs and allow them to worship how, where and what they may. We would invite others to at least respect our beliefs, even if they do not agree with them.

    With appreciation for your understanding.


    October 24, 2007 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  6. Douglas, Bangor, ME

    Sheesh, another evangelical leader that is a bigot calling himself a Christian and Romney not. You don't need this guy's endorsement then, Mitt. as a former baptist I can tell you that Romney's church worships the same Jesus. I just see a difference with the belief that revelation continues. but, whatever. all this doesn't have much bearing on whether he is fit to be the President. He is, I'm just not voting for him since I agree more with Ron Paul.

    October 24, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. simon.nyc, ny

    What goes round comes around. You see mitt, I told you. You don't go around abusing people. Now we will see what happens from here!

    October 24, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. jacob,baltimore,md

    misearable fool!

    October 24, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. JD, Saratoga NY

    I have nothing against any/all religions, just wish politics and religion would be seperate....remember that pesky political and legal doctrine which states that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate and independent of one another...yeah...that thing.

    October 24, 2007 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  10. Shawnie Cannon, Grants Pass OR

    He didn't lose the endorsement, that is a liberal media twist.

    The guy cannot publicly endorse a candidate or his organization loses its tax status, so he endorsed as much as he dared. And the rest is for the IRS's sake. Get real.

    October 24, 2007 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Craig, Seattle, WA

    I am strongly against a Mormon running the highest executive office in the land, period. LDS is a cult pure and simple.

    October 24, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Wayne, Greenville TX

    I can't help but think that Rev. Wilton was getting a lot of heat from his fellow Baptists – especially those who consider the Mormon and Catholic churches to be cults. That may have led to his rescinding his endorsement.

    October 24, 2007 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  13. Gary, Boston, MA

    hey Craig- every religion is a cult since they all have an organized system of beliefs and rituals. We are in deep doo-doo with the state of bigotry in this nation.

    October 24, 2007 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  14. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Romney's a Christian; just not the "right" kind.

    Funny thing about the Christian Right – they're just about the most un-Christian people on the planet!!!

    The vast majority get their ideas for political thought/affiliation from the pulpit – a very dangerous place to get it from, too!!!

    October 24, 2007 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Liberal Chic

    I can't believe how close-minded people are about Mormons. They are good people. Their religion is a little wacky, but only wacky. They preach clean living, harmony within the home and service within the community. It's not an evil "religion" like Scientology. There have been plenty of crazy evangelical Christians who've floundered, but not one single Mormon has ever been publicly scandalized. And please don't get them mixed up with the fundamental Mormons who believe in incest and polygamy. The mainstream Mormons are one of the nicest neighbors you could hope for.

    I don't like Mitt as a candidate because he has become too right wing to suit my taste as a President. But let's not knock his religion, his family or his personal character. Those are three of his strongest assets.

    October 24, 2007 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. B, Baltimore

    "All politicians are people of deep and abiding personal conviction"...

    Really!?!?! ALL politicians... every single one of them...? including Clinton (Mr and Mrs), Bush (1st and 2nd), Nixon (I am not a crook), The list goes on and on... Fact is (No matter whether you love'em or hate'em) politicians are the rare class of people that have NO, ZIP, ZILCH, ZERO, "abiding personal conviction" if only becuase they can't afford to and win

    October 24, 2007 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. El Diablo, NM

    Here's a suggestion, lets eliminate any form or organized religion from politics and keep it that way. What bearing does it have on the issues that really matter? Iraq, health care, the environment, the trade deficit, unemployment??? NONE!

    October 24, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  18. bukky, Baltimore, MD

    "I am strongly against a Mormon running the highest executive office in the land, period. LDS is a cult pure and simple."

    Posted By Craig, Seattle

    Sir... ALL religions are cults in one way or another. Just because one has been around longer than another does not make it any less cultish. It just becomes a socially acceptable cult. But a cult non the less

    And- yes I am a Christian. Just not blind

    October 24, 2007 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Mike in Lumberton, NC

    I am a Baptist an I will still vote for Mr. Romney. We need to defeat the secular progessive liberals who are destroying our country and attacking all Christians they do not care what faith you are they think we are all stupid. hillary clinton is the ICON of the left and she must be defeated or Christians. If you are Christian you can not let the left win this battle

    October 24, 2007 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. hawk,texas

    wasn't it the mormon's and their avenging angels that was the cause of the mountian meadows massacre.

    October 24, 2007 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Ben

    Maybe it's karma for the Osama "slip".

    October 24, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. Proud LDS member, USA

    Craig –
    As a member of the LDS church myself, it's disappointing to hear you say things like our church "is a cult, pure and simple". I don't know how you define a cult, but there are clear examples of cults in the news, that provide true causes of alarm. LDS is not a cult. If you care to watch what LDS people do in their own lives with respect to service, citizenship, charity, families, clean lifestyle, respect for others, I think you'll agree that your view of the church is far from what constitutes a cult. You'd be impressed, actually, at how willing to help we are, whatever the occasion. Feel free to visit a local building to see what it's like. It's right there for you to see for yourself. No secrets. Hoping you can see the church for the good that it really is.

    October 24, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Scott, Dallas Texas

    First, most citizens do not understand what separation of church & state is. It is basically a matter of the church governing itself, and politicians not being able to rule the church. Secondly, the Mormons are have the highest rate of spousal abuse. Last, religion has everything to do with it. Our constitution was designed by mostly Christian men, and based it on Christian principles. So, how can Mit Romney (or Hillary for that matter) be faithful in upholding a Christian based constitution?

    October 24, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. The Great Opiate of the Masses

    Be silent and be pacified, oh ye uneducated and foolish masses, by organized religion, reality TV and professional sports! Look not into the heart of the devil but stay occupied and be blinded by the simple man's quarrels!

    October 24, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. DT, Atlanta, GA

    I guess somebody forgot to tell Mr. Wilton that Mormans are Christians.

    October 24, 2007 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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