October 24th, 2007
05:30 PM ET
14 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. Herb, Pittsburgh, PA

    How about the Mountain Meadows Massacre? LDS is a cult, and I do not want a Mormon to be President.

    October 24, 2007 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Dave, Denton, Texas

    Craig stated that Mormonism is a cult. Did you know:

    The church that Christ established was regarded to be a sect, and that "everywhere it was spoken against?" (see Acts 28:22).

    October 24, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Rick, Jacksonville, FL

    As long as voters are motivated by their imaginary friends, the imaginary threats politicians use to keep the scared and the imaginary issues that don't matter, nothing will ever get done in this country.

    October 24, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Mike, U.S. Air Force, New Braunfels, Texas

    I hesitate getting too deeply into a theological discussion, but I have a question for Dave, from Denton Texas, or for Mitt Romney. If you (OR ROMNEY) do not believe in the trinity, and based on what you said, "Jesus was sent from God, Jesus prayed to God", etc. WHO DO YOU BELIEVE JESUS IS? I had a Mormon friend and we had civil debates on a regular basis. He referred to Jesus as a sort of BROTHER JESUS figure and my friend believed that he would himself, become a GOD-LIKE FIGURE OVER HIS OWN PLANET, etc. He also believed in not only a Heavenly Father, but a Heavenly Mother. In essence, my friend believed himself capable of being placed on the same level as Jesus. Christians believe Jesus is the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD. Furthermore, according to John 1:1-18, the Word was God, and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, the only begotten Son. Mormons do not use the same Bible as Christians, but instead a translation given specifically through their church. They also use other "scriptures" (i.e. the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Coventants, Pearl of Great Price) that are all taken as equal sources of authority for doctrine. Finally, they have many other beliefs and practices that are contrary to Biblical Christianity as laid out in the New Testament. At the heart of it however, is Jesus. WHO DO YOU, (OR ROMNEY) CLAIM JESUS IS?

    October 24, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. Todd, SLC, UTAH

    As a non-mormon growing up in Utah, I can attest that mormonism is a cult, and the people of the cult are as phony as their religion. Besides the fact that mormons believe that the Holy Trinity does not exist, they also believe that the Eternal Father has flesh and bones, had intercourse with the Virgin Mary, and thus Jesus Christ is was born. The religion is completely blasphemous! In addition, they believe that one day all mormons will be gods of their own universe, which why they are "family oriented". In other words, the greater your offspring (family tree), the more inhabitants on your earth like world, that you (the mormon) will be the eternal father of. Ha, what a farce!

    October 24, 2007 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Chuck S., Pendelton, OR

    "" Wilton...added, "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." The ONLY standard for voting?! It's time for this type of American citizen to mature politically. The US in NOT a theocracy and politicians need to be elected based on a broad support group which truly represents the diversity in the US–not on only one religious
    criterion. That smacks of Talibanism, and we all know what that has caused, don't we?

    October 24, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Dave, Denton, Texas

    Without trying to offend you Mike, it is pretty simple:

    I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God – and the Savior of the world.

    October 24, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. former republican, orange county CA

    thanks to the Republican Party for bringin theological litmus tests to US politics...long live the Iraq-ification of the Republican Party!

    October 24, 2007 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. Dave, Denton, Texas


    Please know that our first article of faith states: We believe in God the eternal father, in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

    Also, please consider the following New Testament verses from the Bible: After his resurrection, Jesus Christ said "Handle me, and see; for a spirt hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39). Phillippians 3:20-21 states that our resurrected body will be fashioned like unto Christ's body.

    You are 100% correct: We believe Christ was resurrected with a body.

    If you do not care to understand our reasoning for this basic belief, I imagine it would make no sense to discuss our other beliefs (as they really are).

    October 24, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Steve Wittlake Blaine Washington

    Again and Again people do not understand the term Mormonism or understand the nature of Mormonism. They have persecuted the Mormon Church from the day it was organized to even the present day.
    In the Bible Isaiah 28 verse 12 it is stated that in the days of the refreshing few people would listen. Again God is speaking in Acts 3 verses 19, 20 and 21 and states that he will again send Jesus Christ who had previously preached onto you in the days of the refreshing. What happens when you hit the refresh button on your computer? Does not all the old come back with what is new? What is so hard to understand in meaning of the word? The Mormon Church was not organized by Joseph Smith. It was organized under the direction of Jesus Christ using a boy named Joseph Smith who was trained as a prophet from the time he was a small boy uncorrupted by the ways of the world as Jehovah or Jesus Christ did in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ directed him every step of the way throughout his life until his death. Read the Doctrine and Covenants of the Mormon Church. Jesus Christ is there every day directing Joseph Smith. Not one single concept was belonged to Joseph Smith.
    Before the earth was flooded did not Jesus Christ or Jehovah call a prophet
    named Enoch to preach and round up the good people who were translated to Heaven before the Earth was flooded. Is it any stranger that he would do the same thing before what is termed the 2nd Coming when Jesus comes in vengence on an evil and wicked earth.
    Throughout the Bible a period of Restoration is talked about before the Great and Dreadful Day of the 2nd Coming. Wake up People and read all of the Bible.

    October 24, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. John, SF, CA

    WOW! I continue to be astonished and confused, even today in the year 2007, at the level of religius Bigotry in America... Shame on you. I hope you are ready to face your Christ and explain to him why you draw so close to him with your mouth but how your heart is so far from his techings. Rather than being afraid of mormonism and how it rocks your sandy foundation
    you should actually listen to the message and teachings of the church.

    Let us not forget that it was the established religion and its leaders of the time
    that Put our Christ on a cross, because they didn't like his doctrine.

    October 24, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. pat huntington ny

    he's mormon. mormons are cult followers. therefore, no surprise fanatical evangelicals don't support him. they have issues too.

    October 24, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. roger, conway sc

    I was shocked when Wilton initially said he supported Romney because SC is a very very conservative state (true Red) and Romney does not fit that bill...

    October 24, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. jane, nyc,ny

    moron or mormon?

    October 24, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Todd, SLC, UTAH

    Not only do mormon's believe they will be god's of their own universe, they believe they believe that the Book of Mormon supersedes the Holy Bible (i.e. the only correct revalation of God).

    This all established by Joseph Smith the founder of modern day American Poligamy – who as it was, was arrested in MO. for being a conartist.

    Funny really, if the Book of Mormon was suppose to be so correct, why did the early printings state that people who have dark skin are so colored, because they are the cursed people? Then when the civil rights act was established into law, the book was revised to remove that statement. If it is the word of God, I think it would be correct from the git-go?

    The things that make you go Hmmm.

    Just think, Mitt not only want to be Prez, he also wants to be the god of your universe!

    October 24, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Alex, Norman, OK

    This is just to remind people that there is no "wall of separation between church and state" in our Constitution. That is merely a phrase written by Thomas Jefferson assuring Baptists that their rights would not be taken away by the new government. Our nation was founded by people who considered faith very important. Therefore, it is only a continuation of the American Way to discuss a candidates religious views.

    October 24, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Brian, Dallas

    It's amazing that many people see a cause for concern over a Mormon (who believes in Jesus as their savior) getting the Presidency, and yet didn't show any concern when Liebermann (Jewish – doesn't believe Jesus is his savoir) ran on the VP ticket a few years back. It didn't cause anywhere near the uproar, and that suprises me when listening to the concerns of these supposed evangelicals. Morality and religious faith are two separate things. Judge any potential leader by his morals and past history, not the nameplate on his religion.

    October 24, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. Dave, Denton, Texas

    I'll follow up on what Brian's point:

    At one point, Pastor Wilton states "This is not a conversation about a person, it is about a religion that drives a person to do what he does."

    What does Mormonism drive people to do? Pastor Wilton answers his own question: "The people of the Mormon religion are very highly astute, highly family-oriented, deeply character-driven people."

    And yet, he says "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."

    Without trying to cast stones, doesn't this seem a little contradictory?

    Please people: if you don't want to vote for Mitt that is fine. There are some things in his past that I don't particularly like (even though I do think he is the most well-rounded GOP candidate out there).

    If you disagree, I respect your decision. Let's all try to respect the religious beliefs of others as well.

    October 24, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. Kerry, Lexington MA

    At one time anybody who believed Jesus came back to life after His death were thought to be heretical, blasphemous, and part of a dangerous cult. Likewise anybody who believed in this "new canon" with writings of Matthew, Peter, Paul, etc. It took hundreds of years to change that way of thinking. I wonder how those who believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet (and the addition canon he brought forth) will be viewed a few hundred years from now.

    October 24, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. Stephanie, Lake Forest, IL

    It's time to tax every "Church" that backs any political candadate. The "Church" should not be a political soapbox.

    October 24, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. RB, from the bay state

    Maybe these fools will learn to stop pandering to everyone in sight.

    Not being endorsed by some groups isn't a bad thing.

    Romney is going nowhere anyway.

    October 24, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  22. Shawnie Cannon, Grants Pass OR

    Todd, from SLC UTAH:

    You have no idea what you are talking about.

    "Funny really, if the Book of Mormon was suppose to be so correct, why did the early printings state that people who have dark skin are so colored, because they are the cursed people? Then when the civil rights act was established into law, the book was revised to remove that statement."

    That's a completely false statement. The verse is still there and it isn't about black people, never was. Either anti-Mormon fanatics quote it out of context and claim it is about black people or they claim it isn't there but "used to be". But they can't point to where it "used to be" or show an old Book of Mormon with it and one without...

    You're spreading false information because you took one of those anti-Mormon courses that is filled with false info and you never bothered to check the references. Sorry, this one is too easy to refute.

    October 24, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. Steve, Chicago

    How very sad for this country that we are still entrenched in such bigotry. This election should not be a showcase for the best religion. The question is who is most qualified to lead this country. While I have not made up my mind on which Republican candidate will get my vote, I can tell you that only the truly ignorant and uneducated will overlook Romney as a serious candidate simply because he is Mormon, LDS, or whatever they call their religion.

    October 24, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. Mike, U.S. Air Force, New Braunfels, Texas

    I am interested in what is at the heart of the most important matter...and that is Jesus. The source document quoted by Dave from Denton Texas, from the LDS website states that the members of the trinity are "united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance." If this is so, and each member of the trinity is a divine being as stated in the text, AND if they are not one with God, then are there multiple Gods? Again, who is Jesus, where does he come from, what do you consider his relationship to be with you? I ask this of any Mormon (esp. Mitt Romney) who uses the name of the Lord Jesus in vain, claiming to be Christian, when the beliefs they espouse contradict scripture. I hold no personal grudge against Mitt Romney or any other Mormon. Two of my best friends either were or are Mormon. Mormons on the whole are great morally sound people. But it must be clear to everyone that Biblically, they can not claim to be Christians if their concept of Christ is not in accordance with the whole of scripture. I again ask with all due respect (Mitt Romney in concept) or any Mormon, to please explain clearly and thoroughly, the origin of Jesus, His relationship to God the Father, and His relationship to you, and what your destiny is for salvation and eternity as it relates to Jesus. I am not expressing fear at Mitt Romney for being President if the voters elect him. I am only conserned about anyone out there who says that they are Christians and worship the same Jesus Christians do. Consider this an opportunity to convince any voters of the "religious right" that their differences with Mitt Romney are unfounded.

    October 24, 2007 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. James, Burlington Wisconsin

    By not taxing churches, the government is prevented from directly interfering with how churches operate. By the same token, those churches are also prevented from directly interfering with how the government operates in that they cannot endorse any political candidates, they cannot campaign on behalf of any candidates, and they cannot attack any political candidate. Maybe it IS time to do something.

    October 24, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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