Pastor denies remarks against Romney were 'bigotry'
October 8th, 2011
05:09 PM ET
11 years ago

Pastor denies remarks against Romney were 'bigotry'

(CNN) - A megachurch pastor and supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry stood firm Saturday on his stance that Christians should vote against presidential hopeful Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith.

"Those of us that are evangelicals have every right to prefer and select a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian," Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, told CNN on Saturday.

Jeffress stirred controversy Friday when he told reporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington that he believes Mormonism is a "cult."

The pastor hailed the Texas governor - who is vying for the Republican nomination and the chance to face off against President Barack Obama in 2012 - as a superior candidate to Romney because of his Christian faith.

His comments drew ire from former Education Secretary Bill Bennett on Saturday, who associated Jeffress' remarks with "bigotry" while speaking at the summit.

"Do not give voice to bigotry," Bennett said. "You stepped on and obscured the words of Perry and Santorum and Cain and Bachmann and everyone else who has spoken here. You did Rick Perry no good sir, in what you had to say."

While Romney didn't directly address the comments during his summit appearance Saturday, he praised Bennett for his speech.

Jeffress himself fired back later in the day, arguing that his statements were not bigoted. He cited John Jay, the first chief justice in the United States, who said that Christians have a "duty" to select other Christians as the country's leaders.

"I hardly think John Jay was a bigoted person," Jeffress said.

When asked about Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which bans a religious test for the presidency, Jeffress said the clause only applies to the government, not individuals.

"We have every right to impose a litmus test on the kind of person we prefer," he said. "You can show preference without being a bigot and certainly without violating the Constitution."

CNN's Kyra Phillips on Saturday pressed Jeffress on whether religious beliefs should trump competence in presidential candidates.

"Yes," Jeffress said. "To religious people, religion matters."

Filed under: 2012 • Faith • Mitt Romney • Rick Perry • Values Voter Summit
soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. dennis

    Finally a man to tell the truth without backing up....Praise the name of Jesus.

    October 9, 2011 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  2. Mama Bear

    And, we would actually listen to a hatred-spewing, self-appointed judge of good and bad? Give me a break. With any religion, actions speak louder than words. And the Baptists want to scrutinize the rest of society????? A religion (Baptist) that doesn't embrace dancing, but turns a blind eye to their men and their mistresses speaks volumes!!!!!!

    October 9, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  3. Mama Bear

    None of the GOP politicians have a tenth of the brain power nor humanistic qualities that Steve Jobs had. Until somebody (either party) steps up that can measure up, they are not getting my vote nor that of my numerous female friends. Just sayin' . . . maybe it's time for a really good woman to properly organize and lead this country!!!

    October 9, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  4. BJ Bell

    All Religions are a cult, just look a the barbaric ways that people have been forced to accept Religions - torture, murder and theft have been the norm for establishing Religions in the world.

    It's still going on, if you look at the modern day wars and conflicts you'll usually see different Religions involved, instead of peace and love Religion causes hate and death.

    October 9, 2011 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  5. Jackson Holmes

    Jesus said that his Kingdom was "not of this world" and that he and his followers were "no part of the world." So how does Jeffress justify being deeply involved in the politics of this world? The term "Christian" should refer to one who practices Christianty. Political activism is clearly absent from the new testiment. Calling another faith a "cult" doesn't make your transgressions less blatent.

    October 9, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. Freethinker

    Funny!!!! One cult accusing another cult of being a cult. Let he without sin cast the first stone.

    October 9, 2011 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  7. mw

    OH my.

    October 9, 2011 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  8. SCAtheist

    Baptists are a bigger cult of course.

    October 9, 2011 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  9. Austin Njoku

    The pastor did not do any evil by advocating that a non christian should not be voted for.He is doing his job as a leader in the church.Part of his duties include guiding the congregation morally,spiritualy, ofcourse politicaly.

    October 9, 2011 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  10. diridi

    If I were to select, I would select this dude, from that hysterical circus.....o.k,

    October 9, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  11. cigarman

    Mr. Jeffress is obviously misinformed about the competency of any of the Republican Presidential canditates. He states that christians have a right to vote for a competent christian over a competent non-christian, I agree, but you must have a competent person to begin with. I dont believe that any of the canditates are competent to become the President. Listen to any of them when they speak, they are downright whacky. Wake up America, the Republicans are out to destroy America as we know it. Just a few of the examples, Booing American Soldiers in the war, kill social security, in-state tuition for ILLEGALS, kill medicare, let an un-insured person die, 999 tax plan, which would RAISE taxes on the poor and middle class,and these are just afew examples, True Americans, be aware of these fruitcakes. The Democrats are not much better. BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE.

    October 9, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  12. Mal

    The pastor would do well to review the bible and ponder these words "...render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar..." and "... my kingdom is not of this world..." He should stay out of politics. The world would be better off by far if religion played no part at all in Caesar's business.

    October 9, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  13. Aezelll

    What he fails to realize is Christianity is a cult as well.

    October 9, 2011 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  14. Dale

    I sure hope that Mr. Jeffress and his church are paying taxes.

    October 9, 2011 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  15. Jules

    By endorsing one candidate and making those remarks, I believe that pastor just lost his tax exempt status with the IRS by violating the separation of church and state that specifically allows churches to not be taxed as long as they stay out of politics.

    The mega church with its tax free mega millions will now be taxed or receive a large fine.

    October 9, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  16. Michael

    In this bigots own logic, why then Prez Obama is not a christian? I guess choosing a "competent" non-black over a "competent" black is also a christian thing to do in his retarded mind.
    The fact of the matter is – every single one of these contenders (including the prez) are all corrupt, in the hands of corporate and lobbying machinery. There is No difference between any of them at all, EXCEPT Ron Paul, who probably is too Buddhist to be elected!!

    October 9, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  17. Kevin

    He can spin his bigotry anyway he wants, he is the rue sinner.

    October 9, 2011 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  18. John

    First they came for the trade unionists... and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist-we know how this ends -The republican party might want to look at how devicive they are to the country as well as their own party

    October 9, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  19. albert

    As with most corrupt "Christian" leaders, Jefferson cannot backup his claim using the Bible. Jesus warned about these fake Christians (Matthew 7:20-23)

    October 9, 2011 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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