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. Erica

    Mormons are Christians, most religions ultimately are. It is prejudice of anyone to think otherwise. No matter what the religion or race of any candidate should not matter. The only thing that should matter is the persons belief in this country and their integrity as an individual. I will say I'm not Mormon , but I can say I would take a man like Romney over Jeffress any day. The last thing our country needs is more ignorance and hatred.

    October 9, 2011 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  2. Dawn in MN

    Because religion and competence always go hand-in-hand.

    October 9, 2011 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  3. wes

    Mormonism is a cult and Christianity is not?

    October 9, 2011 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  4. Voice of Reason

    Utter insanity. There is no requirement that says the POTUS must be of a certain religion.

    October 9, 2011 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  5. MormonChristian

    Pastors have no business endorsing candidates. Jefress' church has a program depicting Mormons as a cult, filled with half-truths and lies. Who isn't a Christian??

    October 9, 2011 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  6. Scott

    Christian denotes any religion that believes in Christ, something that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) obviously does. This pastor is at least ignorant, if not outright moronic.

    October 9, 2011 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  7. txlolly

    pretty sure all of christianity is a cult after watching that interview live. i'm sure he also tells his sheep what race and what gender person they should be voting for too. probably tells them that right after he tells them what they should "believe" in lest they spend eternity in a fairytale Hell.

    October 9, 2011 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  8. Sam

    Matt. 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

    October 9, 2011 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  9. mike

    Religion over intelligence WOW!

    October 9, 2011 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  10. GoodGuyGary

    Who are you to say who is Christian, who is not? Only Christ can make the call.

    October 9, 2011 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  11. RayJacksonMS

    The Value Voters Summit was held by groups that have been listed as hate groups so what else would you expect? He was right about mormonism being a cult. He just left out the part about christianity being one too. None of these cult lunatics, including Perry are qualified to run this country.

    October 9, 2011 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  12. Moderate

    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."

    That's the problem with the religious right. They think competence doesn't matter.

    October 9, 2011 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  13. mark

    This guy really shows his ignorance when he says Mormons aren't Christians. I was raised a Baptist but am now "Mormon". Believe me, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) believe that Christ is the son of God, and that he came here to Earth to die on the cross in order to take upon him the sins of this world that we might all accept his gift and be able to return to the presence of God. If that isn't the definition of a Christian, I don't know what is. Its the exact same definition we had when I was raised a Baptist.

    October 9, 2011 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  14. rebecca thomas-hajrulla

    It's people like these who preach against another religion that causes so much hate against other sects. There is only one true religion, and that region is called by Jesus Christ's name. Pastor Jeffress' remarkes are totally uncalled for. I would never attend his church making this kind of statement. He preaches hate and bigotry against others beliefs. The Bible was written for the Jew so as to help them realize the Jesus Christ was born and was here 2000 years ago. The B of M confirms that Jesus Christ was here. It is a second witness for Jews to believe that Jesus did come and was born and will come again. Pastor Jeffress clearly does not know anything about the B of M, if he did, he would never make a remark that shows his ignorance in this matter...

    October 9, 2011 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  15. Joshua

    I think anyone tha believes in speaking snakes, people being turned to pillars of salt ect has no purpose holding office whether they be evangelical, moromon, Muslim ect. Theruggedgent

    October 9, 2011 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  16. Starstuff

    Exactly why are we paying and giving attention to this guy? Ok, he got his 15 minutes of fame not it is over already.

    October 9, 2011 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  17. Misterwire

    It is sad that in a country of 300 million people, we cannot find anyone close to Regan or Clinton to lead us. I am still waiting for a new candidate to emerge because the current candidates have nothing to offer our country.

    October 9, 2011 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  18. Cooper

    "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.

    And everyone else has the right to prefer and select their government officials based on who they believe is the best person for the job, be them, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, religious, non-religious. Most people have enough common sense not to vote their vote on a single issue as being a Christian.

    October 9, 2011 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  19. god4ever

    I really don't find that bigotry. We choose them so why can't we prefer to choose a christian candidate. By choosing one we know that they r going to think about what they say or what actions to take because they will ask God first now their heads. And God never makes mistakes

    October 9, 2011 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  20. T'sah from Virginia

    This pastor is a "full-fledged" hypocrite and liar. He spoke earlier on MSNBC and said that MITTen's religion was a cult and that he could NEVER support anyone that is part of a cult religion. He also said the Perry is a "full-fledged" Evangelical christian that believes in Jesus and he would support him.

    Okay – now here's how he's a hypocrite. He said that if MITTens becomes the candidate to run against President Obama, then he would support MITTens. How can you HATE ON someone in one instance and then turn around and LOVE and EMBRACE him in the next??? Just stay home and DON'T vote!!

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 9, 2011 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  21. Stupid

    Idiotic pastor completely missed the entire point of calling him a bigot. He unjustly attacked another religious sect of his own faith and labeled them a cult (which all religion is anyway). Saying a Christian should elect a Christian is just stupidity, not bigoted.

    October 9, 2011 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  22. Rob Peck

    Jeffress is opening a Pandora's box here. If Baptists only vote for Baptists, and Mormons only vote for Mormons, and Jews only vote for Jews, etc. etc., the logical end result is a candidate elected by a minority of the voters who does not have the support of the majority. Bennett is right; Jeffress has not helped Perry with these remarks. If Perry doesn't disavow Jeffress' support, Americans should vote for someone who would represent all Americans, not just Southern Baptists.

    October 9, 2011 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  23. Peter

    LOL... so this is what words have become. "I'm not a bigot" I just publicly prefer one group of people to another, and, by the way, I also prejudge and denegrate that other group. If you missed it, change "christian" for white and "non-christian" or "mormon" for another race (e.g. black) and it'll seem a little clearer. Own up to your own beliefs and prejudices.

    And his argument in defense is that John Jay, a founding father, said something bigoted, so magically it becomes unbigoted (John Jay wanted a law prohibiting Catholics from holding public office). Good job buddy, stick to mega-pastoring.

    October 9, 2011 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  24. TJeff1776

    Bennett is correct. To raise the religious viewpoint during the Presidential cycle is bigotry. The Southern Baptist did this during John Kennedy's run. According to them back then, the Pope would be running America. It didn't work. This should disqualify Perry and followers. Certainly he knew about these slurs in advance. Bigotry in its purest form.

    October 9, 2011 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  25. concerned kid

    U r a complete fing moron I know who never to vote for if u have sucked the mind(lined his pockets that well)that he reall tries to pull the religion card ha I should run for president u know someone who has never had a 24k gold toilet seat and the country might turn itself around if not amsterdam here I come

    October 9, 2011 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
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