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. Henry

    Mormonism is no more a cult than is Christianity.

    October 8, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  2. opinionated

    Jeffers should be relieved of his pastor position in Dallas. no minister, black or white, has any business telling their members who to vote for in any election. your job is to preach the bible and care for your flock.

    October 8, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  3. mk1

    I said this the other day, this guy looks and sounds like Gomer Pyle, only that is an insult to Gomer. Ever seen this guys smile? A weasel if ever I have seen one. These holier than thou self righteous people make me absolutely sick. They certainly are not Christians in my book.

    October 8, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  4. morpunkt

    Let the truth be known. This pastor is a surrogate to do the dirty work for Perry. He makes the claim. Perry denies believing in it. But the damage gets done.
    Let the truth also be known. The preacher industry of the Bible Belt feels their business is threatened by other growing religions, especially the Mormons. It translates into lost dollars. The preacher industry in the Bible Belt is as big as the South's other big industries, of NASCAR, college and pro football and Walmart and Cheese Wiz.
    Let the truth be known.

    October 8, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  5. Terry Gloege

    Let the crusades begin!!! Maybe we should consider the wisdom of the founders who recognized the danger of mixing politics and religion all those many years ago.

    October 8, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  6. Republican never again

    Christianity started as a cult. Baptists are a cult, the cult of John the Baptist. Duh.

    October 8, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  7. Cook & Bottle Washer

    Why is it considered "bigotry" when you speak disparagingly about Mormons, but it is considered "patriotism" if you speak disparagingly about Muslims?

    October 8, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. ScottieB

    Where's the bigotry?

    October 8, 2011 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  9. lgny

    What about his earlier remark quoted on CNN that the First Amendment does not apply to Mormons and Muslims? Isn't that bigotry?!!

    October 8, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  10. mabear87

    What a oke this guy is! Perry is a bigot and nowhere close to being a Christian, as are most evangelicals. They do not accept everyone and people for whom they are. They chastize rather than forgive what they perceive as sins, and they pretend to practice Christianity and yet, are closer to the devil than those of us who do not retend to be born again phonies. Perry is probably the least Christian of all of the Republican candidates, has no ethics, rather low morals and is either dishonest or stupid. He is the only person who, sadly, is the epitome of the Aggie jokes. Most Aggie grads are reasonably good people.

    October 8, 2011 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  11. Tom

    I wonder if he would've spoken up if Romney were Catholic or Jewish.

    For most religious politicians, their political beliefs and life comes first anyway.

    October 8, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  12. b4bigbang

    Wow, did John Jay really say that?

    October 8, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  13. Phil

    John Jay not bigoted? I wonder if he knew John Jay's position on slavery.

    October 8, 2011 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  14. Habte S

    Great leader is always from God. I am a Christian and I believe if God wants Roomney to rule this great nation, he absolutely will and this applies to Perry too. But, God the almighty, has given us the brain to think. We have to look in to every details and work to elect the right person who we think has the efficiency and knowledge to lead this nation. please let us look at ideas and visions not at personalities and their religious orientations. God Bless America.

    October 8, 2011 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  15. gooner

    Baptists are always the first to point the finger and decide who is and who is not a good Christian. My experiences have been that I would not trust a Baptist.......r

    October 8, 2011 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  16. mytabloids

    WWJD? He sure as hell wouldn't trash someone else's religious beliefs. Jeffress is a pathetic specimen.

    October 8, 2011 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  17. Alex

    A bigot, I don't know but Jeffress is for sure a heretic and a false profit. Christ and the faith are above politics.

    Does Jeffress consider Jesus a flawed man for not removing the Romans from Jerusalem before the resurrection?

    Jeffress is a poor politician and in this moment, a poor preacher.

    October 8, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  18. Benjamin Franklin

    The reborn christians are a greater danger to America than any other thing in existence. They
    should be outlawed.

    October 8, 2011 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  19. ed

    I think the pasters should stay out of politics, after all in war time (forbid) nukes, god will have no place.

    October 8, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  20. Monte

    Both religions are the same. The LDS can boast however they are not fragmented like the Baps.

    October 8, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  21. James

    He's a Gospel Minister. He's within he's rights to prefers a believer to a non believer for a presidential race. But calling Perry a believer is way out there.
    The Pastor has bigger works to work than peddle controversies, like Preaching the Gospel to the whole world.

    October 8, 2011 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  22. keith burnett

    how can one serve God and our fellows when the one who is considered a servant hates his fellows for what he believes?

    October 8, 2011 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  23. maxwell

    So this pastor has used his 15 minutes of fame to show the world how little he knows about Mormons. Move on.

    October 8, 2011 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  24. Phil

    "To religious people, religion matters." might as well have said "To racist people, race matters".

    October 8, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  25. jennifer

    mormons ARE Christians. That's why the mormon church is called The Church Of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Just because members of the LDS church aren't in agreement with you on certain doctrones doesn't mean they aren't just as christian as catholics or other christian branches.

    October 8, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
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