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. Joe

    Do your homework on Mormonism. Do your homework on Christianity. Then make your comments.

    October 9, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  2. yzcrak

    Gotta be the hair...

    October 9, 2011 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  3. Jon S

    so sad that the leader of a supposed Christian Church does not understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a Christian Church. Christ is the center of our faith and living His Gospel is the focus of our lives. I would agree that his remark was the remark of a bigot.

    October 9, 2011 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  4. True true

    Caught being a bigot, he can do nothing but deny it. Too bad – we see the bigot clearly.

    October 9, 2011 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  5. dinak

    CNN, the real news is that Herman Cain is in the lead, but u don't want to cover that – instead u print this nonsense on romney. how about the real news on Cain – the fact that he has a Bachelor's in Math, Master's in Computer Science, was a rocket scientist, pulled Burger King and Godfather's pizza franchises out of the brink, worked for the Federal Reserve, and more? No, u don't want anyone to know how much more life and work experience he has than Obama – so instead, u report this religious idiocy.

    October 9, 2011 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  6. lincoln

    I think the Mormon church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. How is that any less Christian than the First Baptist Church anyway?

    October 9, 2011 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  7. Tim

    I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Without any doubt, I consider myself Christian in every way. Thankfully, we're all free in this country to voice our opinions. But rather than worry about differences and argue about it, I think we should focus on being charitable, selfless, loving, and kind to each other. That's what Jesus Christ would have us do. That's what Christianity is all about, after all.

    October 9, 2011 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  8. Leigh

    Sorry, Jeffress. While you could argue your remarks were not bigoted, they did Rick Perry little good, other than further identifying him with an exclusionist doctrine as out of date as it is repulsive.

    October 9, 2011 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  9. Eric

    What a piece of work.

    October 9, 2011 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  10. thomas

    bigotry or Ignorance ?

    Or lack of acceptance !

    October 9, 2011 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  11. Dave

    The goofy thing is that Mormons are Christians by any reasonable standard – they worship Jesus Christ, they teach that Jesus is the Son of God, their church's official name is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", etc. Those who say Mormons aren't Christians do so by coming up with very narrow or convoluted definitions of Christianity.

    So not only is this pastor bigoted in his statements towards Mormons, he's also completely missing the mark since by any reasonable definition of "Christian", the Mormons most certainly qualify.

    October 9, 2011 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Mormon scripture teaches that all the various Christian denominations, particularly the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, are all considered by Jesus Christ to be “wrong.”

    When the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. was questioning,as a 14-year-old boy, which of these churches to join, he claimed, I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an
    abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’ (Joseph Smith–History 1:19, Pearl of Great Price,

    October 9, 2011 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  13. Rich

    The obvious solution to this problem is massive tax cuts for the super rich.

    October 9, 2011 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  14. Truth speaker

    If this man who has become a judge,were a true christian,he would not be involved in politics, and his faith is not based on an accurate bible truths.

    October 9, 2011 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  15. Jennifer

    "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."

    Christians preferring to vote for other Christians isn't necessarily bigoted, but refusing to acknowledge a Christian denomination as Christian and calling them a cult, it bigoted. Yes, there are some big differences, about a books worth, between the LDS church and the Southern Baptist Convention, but Jesus Christ is still the foundation for both denominations, just as he is for all the other Christian denominations. That's what makes them Christian churches.

    October 9, 2011 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  16. Anonymous

    The irony is that Momons derivate their faith from Christianity, exactly the same than Baptists. No that the other arguments to defend his speech are also white trash.
    I don't like the turn Obama is having, but thinking in a goverment that has something to do wirh Perry values, make me panic, and I will vote Obama again, no matter how bad he do it.

    October 9, 2011 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  17. NoGr8rH8r

    Here's the thing, When a nut like Jeffress speaks, who cares? He has every right to voice his closed- minded, ignorant thoughts.(Like-there's a GOD)

    October 9, 2011 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  18. AgrippaMT

    "Pastor" Jeffress is a hoot. He reminds me of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Pat Robertson and, most especially of Ted Swaggart, all denying they had sinned. No wonder most Americans think all these bible thumpers are just hypocrites and bigots.

    October 9, 2011 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  19. Big Daddy Cain

    Republicans would do well to follow Bill Bennett's example in this matter. This a rare case where he called it what it is. Too often, Republicans have either made excuses or insulted people by claiming you misunderstood what was said. If more people did this, People like Jeffress wouldn't have such a voice.

    October 9, 2011 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  20. Anthony

    Where is the underline bigotry ? I say hear an individual out before casting stones, im just saying.

    October 9, 2011 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  21. YouWontBeRecognized

    He is a Complete Bigot and Racist, as most southern "Christians". America Can & Will Not turn into the western version of Sharia law. UNFORTUNATELY, these poor souls which follow what they were taught, rather than learning for self, are in for an ugly surprise! Christ will NOT recognize them as they do not follow the 10 Commandments, nor Love their 'enemy' as Jesus taught. CHRISTIANS, read your Bible! Jesus did Not come to teach/lead the Righteous; he came for the sinners! "Religion" has been peoples & the worlds Demise! All Humans are created by the same God. It is Choice of how life is lived which decides one's destiny! May God have mercy on ALL of the world & people! "Christians" MUST STOP SPREADING THEIR HATEFULNESS & BIGOTRY!! We are ALL Brothers & Sisters! The "Apostle Paul" is one which Jesus warned us all about, yet 'Christians' follow his, rather than Jesus', teachings. WAKE UP RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS, whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, etc. We are all created by the same God! Get Righteous! Become Pious! Worship God ALONE! Get rid of your statues and idols! WAKE UP, PLEASE!! Lead by example, not ugliness! Peace ~

    October 9, 2011 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  22. Danman

    It is sad to see how much we have progressed as a nation when leaders of our congregations pass judgment on others based on their beliefs. Only God himself can pass judgment on others, not pastors. I hope we can progress further as a nation and select candidates based on merit and not religious belief.

    October 9, 2011 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  23. SmallD

    Keep your religion in your church and home. GET IT OUT OF OUR GOVERNMENT!!!!!!!!

    October 9, 2011 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  24. Genilyn

    I'm not a Morman-and don't understand where some of their beliefs come from-but I'd vote for Mitt Romney without hesitation. If Perry was nominated for president, well, I'd be in the voting booth playing eenie-meenie-minney-mo for my vote for president. And I am a Christian, who goes to an evangelical church.

    October 9, 2011 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  25. Brook Wardle

    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (The Mormons) I consider myself a Christian. This character does not have a copywrite on the term Christian or it's definition. Call us non-traditional Christians if you like. But and the end of the day... It is the shepherd who decides who is part of the flock and who isn't. Not the sheep.

    October 9, 2011 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
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