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. Steve

    Jeffress is an idiot.

    October 8, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. Todd

    Dear editor. Mormons are, in fact, Christians.


    October 9, 2011 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  3. jason

    Jeffress is not a Christian, he is a Baptist. Baptists are a sect that followed John the Baptist. Some of them later followed Jesus. Odd that this man who professes to be a Christian would instead name his religion after someone else and an act of faith. Seems obvious that at least they would name their church after the one they profess to follow. Anyways, by their fruits you shall know them and this guy is quite the fruit.

    October 9, 2011 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  4. Paul

    Mormons believe in Jesus Chirst and the entire bible. They just believe their more to the story and Jesus did more things then in the bible. You would think an educated pastor would know before saying they aren't Christians.

    October 9, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  5. wm

    bigots seldom admit they are bigots, do they? they just say they're right, they're not bigots, that they have the right to believe the way they do, that others agree with them.

    October 9, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  6. pikerover

    Keep religion out of politics.

    October 9, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  7. heather

    Does this mean that christians will never elect a jewish president if christians have the responsibility of electing other christians?

    October 9, 2011 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  8. Robrob

    "Christians have a "duty" to select other Christians as the country's leaders." – – God forbid we use competency to select our leaders.

    October 9, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  9. Mom of Three

    I love how people who believe they can live forever on candy streets with ice cream trees will diss someone else who believes they get their own planet and celestial children. It is to laugh.

    October 9, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  10. Cantard

    "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." "

    Ouch. Did Jeffress actually imply that he would rather have an incompetent religious person in office over a competent non-religious person?

    Gov. Perry, say goodbye to the independent vote.

    October 9, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  11. Greg

    Yeeeee Haaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

    October 9, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  12. bp

    Give me a break – if you are going to make and defend bigoted statement, then at least admit you are a bigot. Don't deny what is absolutely obvious to everyone. Jeffress makes himself look ridiculous/cowardly in addition to being bigoted.

    October 9, 2011 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  13. SPW

    Voting someone in because of their religion and not their political practices, this is why I dislike those with very strong religious beliefs. It's only 'one of them' that can be commander and chief, not the right person for the job.

    Though to be fair, I don't think Romney nor Perry is the right man for the job, but their PERSONAL beliefs should have nothing to do with garnering votes.

    October 9, 2011 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  14. Lovernotafighter

    Robert Jeffress is a modern racist. He has negative feelings towards those that Christ would love. He is not a follower of Christ he is a follower of his own greed. He is taking this time to gain self recognition but in reality he is showing his racism which he truly is a racist. Look up the definition and you will see that I am right.

    October 9, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  15. Barbara Cowart

    The same thing was said about John F Kennedy because he was Catholic it is Wrong for the pastor to Judge a man on his faith and has nothing to do with how he peforms his job!!

    October 9, 2011 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  16. Lindsey

    As a Southern Baptist, I suggest Mr Jeffress go back to seminary and re-learn basic evangelism. He just cost Christianity a lot of fence sitters with his comments!

    October 9, 2011 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. Alex

    I thought they caught and already convicted that Jeffers fellow... hmm

    October 9, 2011 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  18. Penobscot

    This Jeffress is a freaking jack#ss. He keeps citing John Jay as if he is an authority and to justify religious bigotry. What makes John Jay right? News for Jeffress, there are almost as many Mormons as there are dopey baptists. So who is the cult? Evangelical crazies make Mormons look normal and those goofy baptists are a bunch of rednecks who are jealous that Mormons have more money, more power, and more brains. News to the world, if evangelicals hate mormons, they hate your religion too.

    October 9, 2011 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  19. labman57

    Religious fanaticism is to rational thought as oil is to water.

    October 9, 2011 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  20. Nevander

    I love it! As if any religion has proven it's anymore credible than another.

    October 9, 2011 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  21. Alex

    pot meet kettle

    October 9, 2011 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  22. Nevander

    Ironically Jeffress looks eerily similar to Warren Jeffs. And they both have similar names and crazy eyes.

    October 9, 2011 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  23. Plush

    Wow, this reporter got OWNED!!!!!!! Epic FAIL on each question. So much for those zingers.

    October 9, 2011 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  24. Paul Willson

    Pastor Jeffress remarks are bigoted . Pres. Kennedy was the breaking point of accepting anyone b ut a Protestant as President. And to attack Mr Rommeny's religon is to want to return to the politics of 1959 when gear mongers were slandering JFK cause he was RC . I am glad that I no longer belong to a SBC church if they tolerate this level of bigotry.

    October 9, 2011 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  25. ken

    Since ALL of Christianity is a cult, the Pastor simply forgot to include his own delusions in his condemnation.

    October 9, 2011 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
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