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. Terry

    What do you call a cult? Seems to me that we need a Congressional Committee that will review and assign "cult status" if needed. I wonder what Jesus would do?

    October 8, 2011 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  2. Mariann Pepitone

    How could you say my post is a duplicate when that was my first posting. What gives?

    October 8, 2011 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  3. Susie Pope- Texas

    I think religion should be a part of all decisions made. God is the most important person to rely on in situations like this. He is the one we should turn to in time of crisis. People dont realize how important it is to go to God for guidance on everything we do. I just pray you all realize how much you need Him before its to late. God is the only one that can save our country. And He needs to be put back into the school systems as well. I just pray that God opens your eyes to see the mistakes you have made concerning Him

    October 8, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. robert

    Pastor Jeffress just crushed Kyra in that cross examination interview. Way to know your stuff Pastor!

    October 8, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  5. R.lester

    Hasn't religion done enough harm in this country not to mention the world,let's let god be god and put a competent leader in the white house by looking at his character and his record,i'm a christain and my god say's romney's our man,that's what the holy spirit tells me!

    October 8, 2011 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  6. Mk

    Republican junk yard dog let loose, bites one of their own. Republicans ought to move up their nominating convention or they will spent most of the campaign attacking each other.

    October 8, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  7. erikHaroo

    oh bless you cultists and nuts keep fighting about which one of your cults is a cult.

    October 8, 2011 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  8. Jarom

    Wow! For Robert Jeffress, you may claim to be Christian, but your words have no values of Christ in them. Your words exact the same spirit Christ denounced while he was here on the earth. Your words and action do not bear the fruits of our lord, so do not present your-self as a representative on behalf of a people you clearly do not understand or simply fail to live up to. To be clear I am not a Mormon/L.D.S, I am a "Christian" I follow the teachings of Christ and apply them to my daily life, and Romney's response was far more Christian than your behavior. Christ taught love for all, and fought for the freedom of all men regardless of what deity they professed to worship. You sir do not represent a follower of our lord Jesus Christ and should not claim such. Your words disgrace the the light you claim to represent. I've observed the Mormon faith and their good people, their faith holds the same values Christ taught here on the earth and they are no more a cult than any evangelical Christian church to claim such only demonstrates your lack of understanding of what a cult is or you do not understand what your own faith professes to believe. Take a lesson your faith's professed beliefs and next time extend love and support to those who have put themselves in a position willing to serve you for according to Christ he is already greater than you.

    October 8, 2011 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  9. hello1010

    Um...Mormons ARE Christians. "I have a duty to tell the truth..." make sure you actually know the truth first dude...

    October 8, 2011 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  10. kevin

    It doesnt matter which religious president gets in thier...a true christian is not part of a false religion in which all are......regardless of affiliation....their is always
    something dirty about a politician and the media relly naws on that............

    October 8, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  11. Loca Man

    So ... religious beliefs should trump competence, eh?

    Man, that says so incredibly much about the religious right. They can say, in all honestly, that they would rather have an incompetent president who is the "right" kind of Christian, to a competent president who isn't.

    They would rather have a country run poorly by someone in their religious club, instead of a country run well by someone who isn't - even if the majority of the country doesn't share their faith either. They would willingly deprive a country of competent leadership, in order to promote their flavor of faith.

    This so incredibly selfish and petty and spiteful to your neighbor citizens. And un-Christian.

    And yet I get slammed as being immoral because I don't want to share this same religious perspective as you?

    October 8, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  12. jackson

    Its funny that the snl skit 2 weeks ago was joking about the perry camp about to go after the mormon thing.Prophetic? Lol

    October 8, 2011 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  13. djk

    question for Gov Perry: "If nominated..... for your choice of a VP running mate.....would you prioritize religion over competency?

    October 8, 2011 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  14. Rick

    So, to religious people, religion is more important than competence. Which completely explains both Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

    October 8, 2011 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. David Crosby

    What do you call Christianity....a cult..? Jesus died right...that makes him uh..Dead...If they can't produce Jesus then they are nothing more than a cult too...worshiping a dead god....

    October 8, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Robert Jeffress, you are exactly like the Jews of old who felt that Jesus lead a cult. A lesson for you, "Mormonism" does not exist. It is a word used by Satan to blind the children of God just as the Jews were blinded into not believing in Jesus Christ. The name of the church in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And as with all followers of Jesus Christ it is a Christian Church only because man uses the word Christian. By the way Jesus was not a Christian, then if Jesus was not a Christian why should you want to be called something that Jesus was not.

    October 8, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  17. Stacy

    I, as a Christian, do not believe in being judgemental of someone just because of religious beliefs.

    October 8, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  18. Stacy

    Pastor Jefferess should rethink his statement. Heart-breaking.

    October 8, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  19. pastapharian

    ironic that a country where the right continues to cut funding for education has morons arguing over whose cult is the right cult to run our country. Disgusting.

    October 8, 2011 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  20. Robert Martin

    Anazing! You can come out one day and talk the talk of an ignorant bigoted person and the next day deny you ever meant that.

    October 8, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. Southerner01

    However, there is also the fact that the entire evangelical movement could be considered new age, and many christian denominations that predate Southern Baptists and Evangelicals in general could call both new age religions and therefore using Jeffress definition a cult.

    Let me also state that I don't believe any of those things, but if I judged by Jeffress standards, I would.

    October 8, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. Caden

    I'm sorry, but this guy is an idiot. He keeps talking non-christian vs christian, but see, Mormonism IS a christian religion. They believe in the same God, same commandments, and use the same Bible. This "pastor" doesn't know what he's talking about, and is a completely ignorant fool who cant see past his own two hands.

    October 8, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  23. Gtech

    Let's not forget that the Baptist also persecuted the Catholics in the United States during the 1800s. The IRS must remove Jeffress' church tax exempt status for his entry into politics! Perhaps this outburst from Jeffress was pushed by Perry behind the scenes in order to take back the front runner position.

    October 8, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  24. timothy perry

    imbeciles, one and all

    October 8, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  25. ArizonaYankee

    Jeffries is delusional with his historically incorrect statements. Mormons ARE Christians, Jeffries and his mega church ilk are hurting Christianity more than helping it. He is like Jim Baaker, or many of the other sleaze bags. Grab the money and run. Perry better distance himself from this guy and fast. An Obama like Rev. Wright will NOT be tolerated by the Rebubs or the Independents. Perry didn't help himself with his comments either. IMO Perry is already done.....

    October 8, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
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