Pastor denies remarks against Romney were 'bigotry'
October 8th, 2011
05:09 PM ET
10 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. yoshiyahu

    So I guess Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, LGBT's, Athiests, Agnostics, Catholics, and Mormons aren't good enough for the religious right. You know what, I hope Romney wins the GOP nomination and chooses someone from another minority group whether its religious or otherwise as his running mate. This is the kind of blatant bigotry and hypocrisy that turns off large numbers of independent and moderate voters from supporting the GOP!

    October 8, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. JD

    If this is the case, and supporting, and electing a Christian over a non-Christian is so paramount, why is he willing to endorse and vote for Romney (Non-Christian), in the event that he out hustles Perry for the GOP nomination, over President Obama (Professed Christian) in the general election? How is a devout Christian leader willing to disavow his on words and obligation? Are we certain that the good Pastor is not working from a position of bigotry? Or this playing the race card? I'm just asking. Is anyone courageous enough to acknowledge this?

    October 8, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. Lao Tao

    As a Buddhist, it gladdens me to see Americans being active Christians. However, I am puzzled as to what religion has to do with being President of the USA. This isn't a theocracy last time I checked.

    October 8, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. Joshua

    Vote Obama because if these religous nutjobs run the country a 2012 apocalypse is an actual possibility

    October 8, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    A bigot never admits that he is a bigot.

    October 8, 2011 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. AhhhhNOtAgain

    ... they have every right to prefer as candidate whom ever they want. They have NO right calling other religions a cult when this pastor's remark shows clearly in what kind of a tiny mental box he hides his stereotypes and biases. That comment from that pastor of that denomination (aside from the totally obvious Teeexan partiality) only goes to show that some baptist mega churches have gone "culty".... and a bit nutty, too. (Sooners all the way!)

    October 8, 2011 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. Donkey Party

    Why does this "church" have tax-exempt status if they are so engaged in politics??? And what kind of brainwashed idiots belong to Jeffress' cult? It's people like this that make otherwise sane and spiritual people reject this kind of Westboro Baptist-type of organized religion (cult).

    October 8, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  8. Tony in Maine

    And normal Americans have every right to point out that you're a flaming bigot.

    October 8, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. Lorretta D'Amico

    Those peopl;e who proclaim to be following the teachings of Chirst should not judge or make condesending remarks about any religion they know nothing about. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Morman's) is a church who's foundation is built on and beleive in God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Yes (Morman's) are Chistian's and they are not a cult..

    October 8, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. Minnie's Pearls

    Sure, freedom of religion as long as it's a Christian one, right Pastor Jeffress?

    October 8, 2011 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  11. Skeptic

    A religion is just a popular cult. All religions are essentially cults.

    October 8, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  12. Beatrix Kiddo

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

    Well, there you have it. The American Evangelical Taliban are as dogmatic as their Muslim brothers. Two sides of the same coin.

    October 8, 2011 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    Jeffress has become the face of the GOP/Tea Party and the values it stands for: religious intolerance and racial bigotry. The silence from GOP/Tea Party presidential candidates is an implicit agreement with Jeffress.

    October 8, 2011 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  14. 100% ETH

    Right. American Orthodoxy Christianity is keep getting slimmed, while the Muslim Religion kept expanding everywhere in American soil and around the Globe.

    My parents were jailed for Two Years in Saudi Arabia, when they had interest and just asking the City chief permission, if they are allowed to build Church in Saudi Arabia.

    But, here in America, most of the Mosques financed and built were by Saudi Arabians Muslim extremists.

    America becomes a slept giant, that could take US long to wake up.

    Mormon = close to Muslim

    October 8, 2011 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    Considering the violent history of Christianity (witch hunts, Crusades, the Inquisition, forced conversion of native people's, the KKK, genocide of non-believers, etc., etc, etc.), I don't think a litmus test for a "real" Christian is a good thing.

    October 8, 2011 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  16. GOP = Greed Over People

    "bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance"

    So what part of the definition did the Dallas preacher, Elmer Gantry Jeffress not understand?

    October 8, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  17. steph in TX

    Just as evangelicals can decide to prefer a candidate because of his or her religion, the rest of us can also choose to vote AGAINST an evangelical because of his or her religious beliefs.

    October 8, 2011 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. Andrew

    "It's not bigoted that I hate ____ (insert group), I just don't want them to get elected because I prefer MY group to theirs. But I'm not a bigot."

    You know, religion is not a qualification for seeking president of the United States, nor should it be. One's religious affiliation does not necessarily relate to one's ability to govern the country. Perhaps this pastor's "not bigoted" self might have forgotten that?

    October 8, 2011 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  19. compassion rules

    The most offensive and riduculous issue of all in this is the arrogance of the pastor to keep calling Mormons "non-Christians". I DARE ANY person in the public to stop by a Mormon church on Sunday (public is welcome in ALL churches, temples are completely different buildings than the local churches) The public will see for themselves people praying to Jesus Christ, singing songs of praise to Jesus Christ and talking about Him and the stories of Him in the Bible. As a lifelong Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints) I (with all my heart and soul) love and have complete and tender faith in Jesus Christ, the author of my and all the world's salvation. This pastor is lying, but most pastors do lie about Mormons because the bottom line is they have to make their congregations afraid so that they don't lose their own people to the missionaries. Do people go to Stalin in Russia to find out what America is all about? Of course the enemies of the church would lie. If you want to know what we really believe, go to or and find out from US not our enemies the TRUTH, not half-truths, twisted truths, things taken out of context and out right lies.

    October 8, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  20. joan

    this is getting way too scary...this country is becoming so reilgiouslyy bigoted that we are going to tear ourselves apart.. won't need any help from ourside sources. Take religion OFF THE TABLE ... didn't christ make some comment about the separation of church and state anyway??

    October 8, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  21. Dan in Atlanta

    The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas has no business engaging in partisan politics, that is, if he wants to uphold the laws of the United States. Churches that receive a tax-exempt status from the IRS art prohibited from engaging in partisan politics, and that includes their pastor if he is representing himself as the pastor of the church.

    October 8, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  22. George

    Jeffress is a dangerous and very bigoted man. Who gave him permission to judge who is and who isn't a Christian. His actions and comments prove very clearly that he is NOT a Christian man himself. He will be rebuked severely from the Lord when he crosses the veil. He will also be very surprised at who the Lord views as Christians – and Mr. Jeffress will NOT be on that list unless he repents and takes corrective action very soon.

    October 8, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  23. Tim

    No! No! He got it all wrong. It's the Baptists that are a cult!

    October 8, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  24. Max Ramming

    Christian pastors...bigots? Never.

    October 8, 2011 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  25. Robert

    I call BS. Jeffress has made a career out of grandstanding and bigotry stretching all the way back to his not so humble beginnings in Wichita Falls, TX. I've seen him trotting out books he wants banned from the library for the evening news and I've seen him conduct funerals for bereaved children, and it was VERY clear which one he really cared about and which one he was phoning in.

    This guy has never seen a news camera or checkbook he didn't like. As for Jesus... well, he uses the name a lot, but doesn't seem too familiar with the message.

    October 8, 2011 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
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