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. Ron Jarman

    It is not bigoted to make a stand against something that you do not believe in. The mormon faith is not Christian but yet tries to identify itself as Christian. Their faith does not hold up to what the Christian faith holds as the Truth. The faith of the Mormon's does not up hold up to the infalible Word of God.

    I am another person in this country who happens to believe we do not need a mormon as the head representative of who we are.

    October 8, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  2. Jabo James

    Jesus Of Nazareth was not a Christian-he was a Jew. His disciples & subsequent followers promoted him to Christian.
    To question whether or not Mitt Romney was a Christian is a waste of time & energy better spent elsewhere.

    October 8, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. CJPA

    And this from an alleged Man of God. It's because of people like him that folks are leaving the Church. The intolerance is appalling, and I'm sure this is NOT what Jesus would do! A perfect reason to maintain separation of Church and State.

    October 8, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. Steve

    When any church tries to tell me who to vote for that is where I draw the line.

    October 8, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. WolfAk

    ""...pressed Jeffress on whether religious beliefs should trump competence in presidential candidates.

    "Yes," Jeffress said. "To religious people, religion matters." ""

    That says it all, plain as day.

    October 8, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  6. nick

    Booing military men for being gay, despite them putting there life on the line to protect this nation.
    Discrimination against those rascally cult Mormons, they are un pure Christians, so they must be inferior.
    Constant unfounded and down right ignorant accusations of their commander in chief: he's a muslim, he wasn't born here, he hates America. Oh let's not forget all the racist pics of Obama floating around, depicting him and/or his wife as a monkey.
    Constant efforts to break unions, the only means for the middle-lower class to have a voice, and a constant source of progress in human rights and working conditions.
    Surely, we are better then this, or are we going to regress about 150 years.

    October 8, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Nivelc

    "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" What is so funny about Jeffress' comments is that Christians in the Bible are called just, disciples of Christ, followers of Christ, the Body of Christ, Christians etc not even evangelicals. The Lord's church is undenominational. Man created denominations. I challenge him to find the "First, Second, Third or Fourth Baptist church" in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

    October 8, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. dwight schrute

    I've heard dr jeffress speak. He is a great motivator and encourages the best from people. However, as a christian, I cannot stand his political stance, approach, etc, and I believe he has come across hateful and holier than thou. To each, his own. And to each, his own beliefs. This is a below the belt punch that furthered neither the progress of perry or the the way the world views christianity. Shame.

    October 8, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. clark1g

    definition of cult depends on the user. When the term cult is used by the secular world they mean any religious group viewed as strange or what may be considered dangerous. Christians point to major errors in core doctrines for justification in using the word cult. Cults contain deviations from the doctrines of historic orthodox Christianity.

    October 8, 2011 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. dwight schrute

    It is not a spiritual leaders job to call other people's faiths baseless, especially since its not like we have jesus christ on video tape drinkin a slurpee.

    October 8, 2011 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    As if these so called "christians" weren't the worst cult i this country. All religions are cults!

    October 8, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  12. JLP

    I agree with the pastor that we all have a personal right to use any litmus test we choose to use. Mormons have a right to believe how they choose and I have a right to believe it is a cult.

    October 8, 2011 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  13. JH

    I'm not even particularly religious but Kyra Phillips showed a bit of stupidity there...

    October 8, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  14. joy

    This pastor Jeffres or whatever his name is, are what give Christianity a bad name....the main tenant of love & christian attributes is not to be JUDGEMENTAL...& furthermore a Pastor should always separate church & state. This Pastor is hate wrong & sad!

    October 8, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  15. Nathan Everett

    It seems Rick Perry has his very own version of Rev. Wright crawling out from under a rock to try to "help" his favorite!

    October 8, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  16. mike collier

    yea, as long as you are a Christain, its OK to support and frequent a hunting lodge where racial slurs are tolerated. As long as you are a member of the right church you are qualified to be president.

    October 8, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  17. Spencer

    The United States represents many different faiths. You can't say only Christians should be president.

    October 8, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Justin Rosales

    This guy is just one of those religious nuts, who thinks religion should be in the public sector. He should keep his ideas in his church, and SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 8, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  19. Robin

    We all know that when you say Muslem we all jump to Muslem extremists. I have to ask this man.... Muslums don't belive that Jesus is the son of God, but Momons do, so I get his thoughts on Mouslems not being in alignment with "his" belief system... What are his thoughts on the Jewish beliefs? They believe that Jesus is NOT the son of God either, so are they a cult? Or is that an "off limits" subject? How dare this jugdmental man infer or suggest that Mormons are in the same group as what I sure he would like us all to think are Muslem extremists... shame on you sir! Check your facts Fischer, Mormons believe in Jesus as the son of God, just like Christians and Catholics. Shame on you for being judgmental, I thought Christians believed it was God that was to be the judge, not man....

    October 8, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  20. ThinkNonit

    Bigoted people rarely recognize their own bigotry. Those of the old south truly believed that a black man's only worth was as a slave, after all, a black person had no ability to be any thing more. For them it wasn't bigotry, it was what they believed to be the truth. Clearly this preacher has as much understanding of his religious bigotry as those of the old south had of their racial bigotry. And sadly, these are the people who believe they could do a better job of running this country. More like ruin the country is more like it.

    October 8, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  21. Kate

    Oh man, yet another argument over Christianity. When will you all just get along?

    October 8, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  22. kristin

    I would elect a person based on their ability to lead effectively. Being a christian or any other creed doesn't make them more capable. At the end of the day, along with the start of the day, I don't care what a person's faith is so long as they're capable!!! Americans have been voting based on single issues for so long!!! WE are the reason why our political system has bit the dust!

    October 8, 2011 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  23. newt

    It is not "mormonism" that is so inherently bad, relly it is no worse than any other religion. Religion, however, is the root of all evil.

    October 8, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |

    This man of the cloth is so bigoted. These think like I think evangelical nuts are sooooo IGNORANT. Who cares what a candidates religion is? It should have no bearing in an election. The party of no tolerance... no thank you. I'll NEVER vote Rethuglican. Obama 2012

    October 8, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  25. rob

    The Mormon cult is a repulsive, immoral, disgusting, bigoted organization that spreads hate against others. And Mormon beliefs are laughable. And if they can spend tens of millions of dollars on hate campaigns, why can't they pay taxes? Why are taxpayers subsidizing governments services to this pathetic, faux "religion?" The sooner this cult is brought down, the better off the country will be.

    October 8, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
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