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. josh

    All religions and most religious are bigots

    October 8, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. Bill

    If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's duck. Bigot!

    October 8, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. littleriver2

    Oh my dear Lord, of course there is bigotry and religious hate and prejudice in the vile words of a pathetic baptist minister against Romney. He and his ilk have infiltrated and destroyed the republican party as it has been known for generations. To say anything other is to lie on the face of the entire thing. The country is listing on the brink of anarchy and to say otherwise is to speak with an uninformed or ignorant tongue. Had he been given one half a chance our current President could have led this nation back from the catastrophy we now find ourselves in. There again is the bigotry and racial hate imbedded in the teaparty/republican. It is theirs, to destroy this country and this President by words, thoughts, and deeds. A dark, hawked nosed sinister man and a no lipped bigot from the South have destroyed this country. Bonier is but the shill in this game of three card monty we're engaged in. The sheer gall of that wimpy bigot of a minister. Sadly he speaks for so many in HIS cult.

    October 8, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  4. Millivanillia

    What about Mormonism makes it a cult but not other religions

    October 8, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. Brent Coles

    This wild-eyed Holy Roller is a a complete fool. I don't care if Romney is LDS (gee: look at the proper name of their church if you want to see if they are Christian). I don't care if he wears bad ties, or likes broccoli. What I care about is: (1) does he have the ability to fix the mess our country is in, (2) does he have the business chops to manage the govt juggernaut, (3) can he articulate a vision and get a commitment from Congress, (4) can he defend us militarily, and (5) does he love his wife (this is a litmus test. . . . . for all you Clintonites). He can, can, can, can, does.

    October 8, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  6. bluewhale

    It's a shame that no one thought to ask Jeffress the simple question of why is the real name of what is known as the Mormon Church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". How more Christian a name would he like?

    Jeffress simply demonstrated the ignorance of both himself and those who support him - which apparently includes Perry. Perry is pandering so much to the Evangelical vote he's afraid to denounce Jeffress - or maybe he simply is in the same state of ignorance.

    October 8, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  7. Bill

    The Values Voter Summit where bigotry is valued.

    October 8, 2011 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  8. nytw

    The preacher is right mormons and muslims do believe in different god than real americans believe in.

    October 8, 2011 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. K

    This guy is ignorant and he will burn in he'll along with Perry. Remember separation of church and state

    October 8, 2011 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  10. Scott A

    Wow, what a bigot this pastor is. Maybe he should spend time looking at the dictionary before he goes off running his mouth.

    October 8, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  11. Wilde1

    He really is clueless! Doesn't know when to keep his trap shut! I would much rather have someone run this coutry who is competent, no matter their religion even if they are not religious, then someone who is religious that may not be as qualified. IMO religion should NEVER be an issue, but more of what the candidate stands for.

    October 8, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. tengrela21

    Here is the a test for your faith:
    Jesus commands : " Love each other the way I love you.."
    But so many politicians and pastors and everyone else claim loud to be Christians, and fail to obey this command.
    Do you love your neighbor the way the Lord loves us ?
    Do you shake hands with strangers.
    If you only love your friends, what makes you different from non believers ?
    Do you love those that don't share your view and your religious belief ?
    Do you ?
    Are you a Christian ?

    October 8, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. massbytes

    Jefress prefers a competent Christian to Romney. Too bad there are not any running. Except for Romney and Ron Paul, the Republicans have no competent running candidates. So the existing incompetent administration may get back in

    October 8, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. BigBill

    While I personally agree with Jeffress statement, I question the wisdom of making it at this gathering. It will not be widely understood because it is based on theological issues that most of the public do not understand and will possibly hurt Perry and help Romney.

    October 8, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  15. K

    Hank Williams jr should have compared this ignorant Jeffress to hitler!

    October 8, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  16. B

    Religious Bigotry is the Worlds longest term reason from war and divisiveness in Human kind.
    Just take a good look at the history of this planet, it started with Man’s Religious Mythology, developed to control the illiterate masses and continues to this day. Now being used as a Political tool to control our leaders of this country contrary to separation of church and state.

    Intelligent morality based on reality and not mythology is hopefully where evolution of human kind will finally determine what works for everyone, if we don’t all kill each other, in the name of God, trying to get there.

    October 8, 2011 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. free american

    And for people non-religious people, religion is nothing more than a 2×4 religious people use to attack others.

    October 8, 2011 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  18. Wayne Hunsucker

    As a fellow Baptist minister, I say you should be ashamed of yourself, sir!

    October 8, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  19. Edmund

    all religions are cults.. just on larger scales.

    October 8, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  20. kmt2023

    joseph smith was a freemason, mormonism is a filthy masonic subcult

    October 8, 2011 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  21. ric

    I dont like you because your not like me..Gotta love religion

    October 8, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  22. mike from iowa

    Dear America, all of the religions are cults, won't you please stop the madness? Religionz are ruinging the lives of everyone. Religions promote hatred and socio-pathic behaviors. Religious people are all bigots, and while on the one hand it is ironically funny to hear one cult group accuse another group of being a cult, it is really a tragedy. Religious people hate freedom, they want to make everyone else follow their dogma. Stop the madness.. a Presidential candidate believing in religion should be a major reason to NOT vote for them.

    October 8, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  23. Lola

    He's no better than the tallaban.

    October 8, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. northof48

    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."


    October 8, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  25. logic in LA

    You sir- as a private citizen can vote for who you choose, but as the hypocrite you are, have no voice in a discussion on Christianity. You have nothing in common with Christ and do not practice any of his teachings.

    October 8, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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