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. Brian, Fort Lauderdale, FL

    He's just worried about his 501(c)(3) status. As well he should be since it is a direct violation of the code. Not that anyone has seen fit to enforce it though. I guess this is further evidence that the Rule of Law doesn't apply to this administration.

    October 24, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. Bruce McCuen, Boston, MA

    I think that "family valaues" should always be in quotes in these kinds of stories because it is the right wing's definition, not most Americans.

    October 24, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. T Williams

    As Brother Wilton said: "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. "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.

    Interestingly confusing?? Give Mormons credit for the great things that they do but discredit the Mormons for the great things that they do.

    Rock the Vote!!

    October 24, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |


    October 24, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Matt, Miami, FL


    October 24, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. Bruce McCuen, Boston, MA

    Wilton was probably afraid he would lose his tax emempt status if he endorsed a candidate. It shows how disgusting Romney is that he wants the endorsements of all those right wing bigots.

    October 24, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. Terry, El Paso, TX

    I am pretty much indifferent to theology, so I write as a neutral observer. Having lived my whole life among religious people, I have observed:

    1. You don't choose a religion, you inherit it. If I had been born in Palestein, I would be a Muslim probably – or at least pretending to be one. If you were born in Athens, you'd be Greek Orthodox today.

    2. All of you who say you worship the same God, the same Jesus, or the same Allah don't know what you're talking about. You all worship a thousand gods who happen to have the same names, but each of those thousand gods have unique personalities and they expect very different things of their followers. And, I might add, their followers expect very different things from ME.

    3. You are all very secure in your belief, confident that you and your group have the final and correct answers to the meaning of life. Each of you wants to tell me and others who are not in your group how we should all behave. None of us wants to hear it. You don't like to hear it either, when someone tries to convert you away from whichever deity you currently prefer.

    4. Quoting those old books at us does not prove anything. If one of those holy manuscripts is the really real truly true one, then the others are false. Since no religious group accounts for more than 15% of the population (Roman Catholic being the largest), then at least 85% of the human race is lost in error, maybe a lot more. If the Mormons are right, then 99% of us are doomed. In any case, the vast majority of the human race is destined for an unsatisfying afterlife or none at all.

    Can anyone deny any of this?

    Now, can anyone tell me how a presidential candidate who believes in the Trinity would govern differently than one who does not?

    October 24, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. Karen,nj

    Oh everybody is so afraid to tell the truth. Just beat around the bush. I don't care about religion at all. Who even knows about any of that stuff. I believe Sylvia, that there is another dimension after this which is three feet off the ground and that makes much more sense.

    October 24, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. ETM

    A number of commentators have suggested we have a Christian constitution. This is complete nonsense. There is not a word about Christianity in the Constitution, which specifically mandates freedom of religion, nonestablishment of any religion and a prohibition on any religious oaths or affirmations.

    The Constitution, like the Declaration of Independence, is a secular document, written primarily by men who wanted organized religion to stay the hell out of our government and vice-versa.

    October 24, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  10. summus

    once upon a time there was a man named Joseph Smith (a failed treasure hunter) who convinced people that an angel (named Moroni- which is also the name of a place were pirates hid treasure in the Caribean) gave him a secret book with metal pages that only he could see and decode. Those who believed him became his flock and they had as many children as humanly possible- this continues today as the Mormons have bred themselves into legitamacy. One day we will all be Mormon whether we like it or not.

    October 24, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. Against LDS Chuch, Columbus, OH

    There is alot of talk about LDS members being in a cult, and I couldn't agree more. If the church told these nut jobs to jump off a building they would do it because they believe it is God's assignment. I will never vote a Mormon into a position this high in society.

    October 24, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. J, Henderson CO

    Oh man. religion sure does get people riled up.

    First i will say that i have nothing against Mormons but they are often not categorized as Christian because they began following the leadership of another. They added another book to further the religion so it is a different religion then Christianity, though with a similar base. It is not Christian but there is also nothing wrong with that.

    Second for those harping on how unchristian Christians are remember that they are people just like everyone else. True Christians try to live a different life but it is hard and they are not always great at it. Furthermore, every group has bad people and Christians are no different. 85% of americans claim to be Christian but i don't see that in life so done be so hard because people place titles on themselves. People who say that are just as close minded as the people they are harpooning.

    October 24, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. PSK Lakeside, AZ

    To Dave from Denton: I certainly stand by your right to worship as you wish- but I will quote from Revelations 22:18: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things (the Bible), God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." I just don't feel comfortable voting for someone that has aligned himself with a religion that has added books to Bible- in direct defiance of the above verse. I do not condemn you- I just don't want my vote to elect someone from this particular faith.

    October 24, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Donnie Rio Grande City, Texas

    What happened to separation of church and state? Hasn't the church endorsing a candidate wreaked enough horror in the heart of America?

    October 24, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Bill. Columbus, OH

    PRESIDENT CLINTON. Get used to saying it again folks. Let's not fool ourselves. After 8 years of Bush, I agree it will take Clinton in the WHITE HOUSE for Rebublicans to get their heads out of their A** and realize the people of this country are tired of losing jobs, no health care, sick and tired of this so called " Free Trade.. Free ? for whom ?. Sick of Bush trying to give legal status to Thousands of illegals. Sick of the Border being wide open to receive thousands more per year. Millions of good paying American Jobs have been Lost to FREE TRADE. And what about this war that each American is now for responsible for $ 8000.00 , the cost for each American. I don't have 8000.00 for a war. I lost my job in July. I was a CLINTON BASHER 18 months ago. Today, I am A CLINTON SUPPORTER. As far as ROMNEY goes. Watch his numbers plummet over the next few months. I see his support going into the single digits before the first to the year. Watch.

    October 24, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. 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. Please consider this an opportunity to convince any voters of the "religious right" that their differences with Mitt Romney are unfounded.

    October 24, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  17. Andy, New York, New York

    Wilton, not Romney, looks stupid for flip-flopping. Now, Wilton cannot go and pledge support to Huckabee, who is more aligned to Wilton's evangelical teachings. If he does, he will come across as a hypocrite. He already comes across as a flopper or an indecisive man.

    October 24, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. ETM

    Here is an idea: how about we simply follow the Golden Rule of respecting one another and trying to put ourselves in the other's shoes. You can be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or an atheist and still follow this. No more worrying about the angels on a pin.
    Then if we pay attention to the real world and reason together, perhaps we might elect some leaders who are not dimwits or stooges and even resolve a problem or two.

    October 24, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. Todd, Las Vegas Nevada

    I am curious why those of you would not vote for a person that is Mormon. I understand you do not think Mormons are Christians, but, are you saying that you need to elect a so-called "Christian" President. And if so, do you think the President will recieve personal inspiration from God, in decisions he makes for the Country?

    October 24, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Robert, Shelton CT

    I think Romney is losing more endorsements than what he is getting at this point, people may call him a flip-flopper, but have they looked hard at Giuliani?

    October 24, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. Michael Torrance, CA

    No church should be endorsing any of the candidates. Keep religion out of politics. All one has to do is take a quick look at just about any history book and they'll know why. For that matter just look around the world today and see how mixing religion and politics is working in places like Iran. Half of the dumb crap that Bush has gotten us into is a direct result of his religious beliefs.

    October 24, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  22. Mike, U.S. Air Force, New Braunfels, Texas

    I for one would vote for Romney or any conservative candidate who shared my views on the various issues. I have just heard from numerous sources, included at least one or two prominent Christian leaders, and even several on this forum, that Mormons are also Christians, and that they worship the same Jesus that Christians do. That is what I am questioning. I don't hold anyone's religious affiliation against them unless they make this type of false claim for political purposes.

    October 24, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. Mary, Mountain View, CA

    I cannot support a candidate whose religious beliefs come from a religion that treats women like 2nd-class citizens. Of all the Mormon couples I know, the wives do not work and are expected to stay home and raise many children. I cannot respect a religion that pressures barely-adults into early marriage and treats women like baby ovens.

    October 24, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. cc peters, near Boston, MA

    Actually, a lot of us are getting very tired of this continual flogging of religion and piety as a way of identifying a politician. How about looking at how they do/did their jobs? How they treat their families? How honest they've been in their business dealings?

    By almost all counts, Romney fails. He lied his way into a governorship; he denigrated his wife when she spoke out about her illness fearing that his governorship would harm her health; and once he got into office in Massachusetts, he was never here to do any work. He was always out sashaying around, sucking up to voters in the southern states, looking for new 'honeys' to prop up his sagging numbers. He began as a moderate (if you can believe him) and now suddenly he's a fundie, born-again, seeking to sell himself and his religion as a plus in governing. Sorry, but none of this helped him when he WAS a governor. He just flat-out lied and was a sorry excuse for a leader.

    His religion doesn't make a hill of beans' difference to me; his character does. And he (and other "religious" politicians) continue to prove to me that their religion is nothing but a prop to buy votes. Peoples' religion and spiritual values are private, and shouldn't be bought and sold as political prizes.

    Get religion out of the races, folks. Not all of us are slobbering fundies out here and we're sick of having religion shoved down our throats.

    October 24, 2007 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Kevin, Kansas City

    As a Christian, I’m glad to see Christian leaders starting to realize how dangerous it is to support a Mormon candidate. It’s comforting to see Wilton’s comments on Mormonism/Mormons and realize that as a Christian, he shouldn’t support a cult – no matter how much it tries to not appear as one and look like Christianity. Hopefully others will follow Wilton’s lead.

    October 24, 2007 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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