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. Wayne, Greenville TX

    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?

    Posted By Todd, Las Vegas Nevada : October 24, 2007 4:57 pm

    I'm curious, too. Especially when you consider the third paragraph in Article VI of the Constitution – underlining emphasis is mine:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    October 24, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Bill, Galt, CA

    Thank god I'm an athiest!!!!

    October 24, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. RPM, Dallas, TX


    October 24, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. Mike, U.S. Air Force, New Braunfels, Texas

    Last attempt..for any LDS members who can explain...I've never had any luck getting a good answer....

    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 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. A Timmons, Texas

    Don't be scammed! One major difference tween the Latter-day Saints and other Christian groups is that the others are often very well paid for their sermons. They are Corporations that fear losing "market share" to the LDS who lead, counsel and preach as volunteers!

    October 24, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Did dear Dr. Wilton check the IRS statues on tax exemption requirements for religious organizations and decide to recant his endorsement?

    October 24, 2007 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. Dave, Denton, Texas


    I'm afraid you are misunderstanding my point. I am not trying to convince people to vote for Mitt or to even accept the doctrine espoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. People have their God given agency, and I respect their decision.

    I'm more worried about the continued attacks against the Mormon Church. A few months ago, a group of people put out a video against my faith. This was quickly denounced by the anti-defamation league. But these attacks don't seem to end, and some of the e-mails herein seem to support that.

    As far as I'm concerned, there should be a separation of church and state. That is to say, one religion should not dominate the political process. I would add, however, that I am in favor of promoting Christian values since I believe those will do much to assist our nation in the future.

    As to the nature of God, we can debate doctrine until we are blue in the face. I'm happy with my view and you are with yours.

    Thus, I'd rather promote respect among faiths, rather than work to convince each other that we are wrong.

    October 24, 2007 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Vish, Irvine, CA

    "This is not a conversation about a person, it is about a religion that drives a person to do what he does"

    Hmm... Wonder if Wilton feels the same way about people of Islamic or other non-christ based religious faith

    October 24, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Wilson, Statesville, NC

    I'm really lost these days. I don't know what religion is anymore. I don't understand how religious leaders claim they follow Jesus Christ. Jesus never supported a political party(ies) or gave or indicated that governments were the solution to human's needs. He said his Kingdom was the one and only. He said his Kingdom wasn't part of this world... Christian ignores Bible facts on God's future plans to eliminate evil governments who identify themselves with beast symbols. Jesus Christ condemns all the wars and abuses we see today. He won't share his theocratic Government with any other human made government. Read chapters 11 and 12 of Daniel and 17 and 18 of Revelations and you'll see what is in the future for both, Governments and religions.

    October 24, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. Matt, Denver Colorado

    "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."

    So all he cares about in a candidate is how religious they are and how well they pander to his flock.

    This is truly frightening, no wonder why this country can't get anything done anymore. With people espousing this sort of religious lunacy things are looking bleak.

    October 24, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Your Mom MN

    Wow, who cares...I would WANT a pastor to NOT be on my side. Let's keep religion and politics apart...Would be nice if that actually could happen.

    October 24, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Michael, Atlanta, Georia

    I'm utterly amazed at this entire dialogue. "Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's..." is something that our founding father's saw fit to etch into our Bill of Rights because they knew where religious intolerance leads when co-mingled with government in a free and pluralistic society. If you want to mix up something really dangerous, do something with fertilizer and gasoline, but please, please keep your religion and your politics separate!!!

    October 24, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. Carol, MD

    ~~Tsk, tsk. Maybe there's a Billy Bob University out there somewhere that will support him.~~

    October 24, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  14. Brad, Stockton, CA

    Endorsements are for people too ignorant to think for themselves. Intelligent people do not base their decisions on the endorsement of anyone.

    October 24, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  15. MCR Knoxville, Tennessee

    The latter decision of Mr. Wilton, to renounce his support with Romney is because the Southern Baptist Convention does not want to lose their dominance in the political arena. People will come to realize that the Southern Baptist Convention is the modern day Confederacy. Mr. Wilton response about Christ being the reason for his vote is a cover because he doesn't want to take the heat from the Southern Baptist because of Huckabee. I hope that the U.S government does not vote for anyone in the Southern Baptist Convention and any of its leaders because of the hypocrisy and legalism they have formed in the platforms of religion. They say they are conservative, but why do they use Hollywood as a reference to their messages and the use of modern forms of music worship.

    October 24, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Tim, Denver, Colorado

    Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

    Why do people care if Gov. Romney exercises the same Constitutional right that all So. Baptist, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, etc. exercise? How does his theology determine if he is qualified to be president? Look at Bush, he is a Methodist (aka "mainstream" Christian) and he has turned out to be quite possibly the most inept president ever.

    Does it matter if a Mormon is Christian according to Rev. X, Y & Z? Where does it say that that is a qualification to be president? I can't stand ignorant people that make uneducated decisions based on irrelevant information.

    October 24, 2007 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. Brandon, Provo, UT

    First may I thank you for you unbigoted opinions and genuine interest and concern for Christianity-it is very plain to see that you really do follow Christ!

    As a Latter-day Saint I beleive that every individual lived in heaven with a heavenly Father and Mother before birth. We had spirit bodies that looked very similar to the bodies we have now. Christ was the first-born spiritually of the Father, and we are literally his brothers and sisters. Christ is the ONLY-begotten of the Father in the flesh-we do not pretend to understand the methods by which this was accomplished save that which is written in holy scripture, namely that the spirit overcame Mary. Inferrence concerning this topic only diminishes faith. We believe that the Savior lived an absolutely perfect life; that he suffered the pains, sicknesses, trials, tribulations and sins and transgressions of every soul ever born. He then willingly commended his soul to death. 3 days later he was resurrected. Because of this we ALL will be resurrected, and those who follow him and exercise his atonement in their lives will be saved to live with God again. In this way Christ is our personal savior-his atonement and power alone provide salvation, which does not come without effort on our part. Christ is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Brother and My Friend-the Son of God in the Flesh. I know that God has a plan of eternal progression for all of us! Think of an eternity without progression! It would be terrible. Exactly what this plan entails we do not pretend to know exactly (why would God reveal the tenants of the next life if we cannot abide by those of this life?). However, I do know that we will eternally progress in family units. Even God progresses, though not of Himself. We are his work and his glory-his progression is through his literal children. I love the Lord and respect anyone who lives a life of goodness in the pursuit of truth. Good Mormons do not demean the truths of others, but simply offer greater light and truth.
    Mormon missionaries are more that willing to explain this further, and the power of their words will be a witness to you of truth if you earnestly seek it.
    Again, thank you for your sincere concern and genuine interest in what is good and right. I won't vote for Mitt Romney because i don't like his policies-good mormons will vote based on platform, not church affiliation.

    October 24, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. marty phila pa

    this loser lost my support he's a puppet for Isreal Ron Paul will get my support

    October 24, 2007 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  19. Peter,worcester,ma

    Mormon or Moron now doesn't matter he can flip flop just like he did in massachusetts!

    October 24, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. brenda,ks,mo

    Is this a mormon or a moron?......Just wondering

    October 24, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  21. Kelvin,malden,mass

    Now Romney rips what he saw just after a day. I won't be suprised if he looses the general election to Obama!

    October 24, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  22. Jereme, Colorado Springs, CO

    To PSK in Lakeside, AZ:

    Do your homework – we know that at least the Epistles of John were written after the BOOK OF REVELATION, and it is possible that Timothy, Titus, Jude, and the Gospel of John were also. Also, if you had done your research, you would know that the bible as an entire book did not come into existence until well after the apostles had died. In fact, when John warns against adding to this book, he is referring to THE BOOK OF REVELATION, otherwise he would be telling disciples to reject other works that were subsequently included in the modern Bible. In short, the scriptures in the Bible were not necessarily written in chronological order, including the Book of Revelation. You might have other reasons to not like Mitt, but as stated, your current reason is inaccurate.

    October 24, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  23. numi, Jax FL

    So let me get this straight.

    Some death cult leader in SC first supports and then reneges on that support of a politician who happens to be a member of a different death cult.

    That about it? I just hope they will all be sending each other to Jesus soon and leave the rest of us non-cultists live in peace.

    No gods – no masters.

    October 24, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  24. Rodney Dallas, TX

    Does this mean he's gonna drop out? Please tell me it means he's gonna quit! He's such a loser anyway. There is no way Southern Baptist are going to elect a Mormon as President. Give it up Mitt!

    October 24, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. Scott, Milwaukee, WI

    You mean to tell me that Wilton did a "flip flop" on Romney?

    October 24, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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