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. elTwoCents

    This guy is being kind, courteous; smiling the entire time, answering her questions very thoughtfully, and going the extra mile to maintain cool and respect in the conversation. On the other hand, this anchor is acting like a spoiled child picking a fight with a parent. She needs to study Piers Morgan to find out how to disagree without being disagreeable.

    October 8, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  2. Mike

    Mr. Jefress, you are not only a bigot, but you are an ignorant bigot. Mormons are Christians, the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If religion is your profession, then you should really get out of the shallow end of the gene pool and get yourself educated a little bit.

    October 8, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  3. joanne singley

    WOW it is hard to believe that the Evangelical Right is still so misinformed about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mormon's believe in Jesus Christ as the Son Of God. THey believe he was crucified and died for our sins. Mormons believe in the Atonement, the Resurrection and the original church set up by Jesus Christ himself, with Prophets and Apostles just like the original church. This whole issue was addressed a few years ago by Romney himself. Why does the Evangelical Right insist on perpitrating these falsehoods? Mormons do not spend any time lashing out at others in this way. So who is the real Christian? By their deeds and words you will know them?
    Thanks You Jo Anne Singley

    October 8, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  4. jouelle

    I would not vote for or against anyone due to their religion, race, or ethnic background. Just how stupid to these people think voters are? As Sargeant Friday would say, just the facts, candidates. That and that alone will determine for whom I vote.

    October 8, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  5. Busted

    The crazies are starting to eat their own

    October 8, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  6. Fred Smith

    All religions are cults. I guess he doesn't see the hypocrisy here, but then again, most religious people don't...

    October 8, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  7. civitas

    The Rev. Jeffress may not be just a bigot, he is most certainly a hypocritical phony.

    October 8, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. Louis

    This guy just doesn't get it. His opinions of Mormonism are based on ignorance. He has not read the Book of Mormon nor have the people he professes to follow. But then again, should we be surprised that there are people in the world like that. Back at the time of Jesus they accused him of doing his miracles by the power of Billzabub, the prince of the devils. I guess Jeffress belongs to that same camp. Open mouth insert foot.

    October 8, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  9. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    To challenge someone solely because they belong to a religious group that you don't agree with is just plain stupid... If that were the case, then there would be a whole lot of people that I would not be voting for because of that. If the person doesn't know what he is doing or doesn't has enough understanding and knowledge to really run the country like some out there (Palin, Bachmann, Perry etc), that would be someone to oppose.

    October 8, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. luis salazar

    To begin with, jeffress isn't a pastor.First baptist church downtown dallas hire only "republican pastors",and their real jobs is find republicans donators to support the big expenses and the debts of the church, Sen. Jon cornyn, hutchinson and many more republicans donate thousand of dollars every elections, to the church in exchange to let them talk in the church and ask the people to vote for them.Jeffress has 2 beautiful daugthers and his wonderful wife, but he is not a pastor.How do I know ? because i used to go to their wonderful bible studies,but when i heard this guy talking in church about weapons of mass destruction saying that he saw them, then i quit that church.SHAME ON JEFFRESS

    October 8, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  11. M.C.M.

    Sooo.... How long is it going to take for the bigoted Pastor to figure out Mormonism is a Christian sect?

    Well, and to that end, as I happen to live in Salt Lake City (and am not a Mormon), I have to say... compared to Evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, and a few other sects of Christianity, Mormons tend to follow Christian values (particularly when it comes to helping its fellow man) more than most.

    Not that it matters. Perry's not a viable presidential candidate, and the Pastor will be praying his ignorance gets shuttled off the air as soon as possible.

    October 8, 2011 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  12. Matthew Henson

    a kettle calling another kettle black.....All religions are friggin cults that brainwash their followers who are weak minded and found god when their lives became too hard to handle themselves so they needed an imaginary friend to help them through it.....Merry Christmyth

    October 8, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  13. Jack

    Tom Jefferson had slaves mr what's your point?

    October 8, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  14. kruzerone

    Rick Perry lacks the common dignity and common intelligence to be in any position of responsibility. His remark, quite obviously, demonstrates such.

    Would you really vote for such an ignorant person? I feel it is unfortunate that this man holds the office that he does.

    This country desperately needs intelligent leaders who understand it is their job to accomplish what is truly in the best interest of United States citizens. Leaders who cooperate to achieve a common goal. We do not need more Boehners or eccentric Perrys.

    October 8, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. jdurand

    Jefferies is just one of many people who disgrace the words" Christianity" and "American".

    That he would dare use his position at the pulpit to tell others who to vote for if they're true Christians is both un-Christian and un-American.

    Shame on you, Robert Jefferies.

    October 8, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  16. Matthew Henson

    not to mention the three bigs are all friggin bigots...

    October 8, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. Robert Green

    I don't care what this bigot thinks. I am a Latter-day Saint & I consider myself to be a Christian. I worship the same God he does, pray in the name of Jesus Christ & accept the Holy Ghost. Christianity is not what some church decides it is what God decides. He has no right to judge others only God does.

    October 8, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  18. Mr Everyman

    It looks like some one blocked my comment because "soundOFF" shows (No Responses). That is not true and not bigotry. Making Mitt Romney answer the same faith questions about religious authority as JFK is very fair and very reasonable.

    October 8, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  19. renonow2

    Of course he denies he's a bigot. Hi IS a bigot, after all.

    October 8, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  20. Dh

    Every religon is a cult.

    October 8, 2011 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  21. bob smith

    this is insane!!

    October 8, 2011 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  22. Winniethepooh

    Evangelical Christians are skum.

    October 8, 2011 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  23. Fred L. Fraud

    What's more important to these people – economy or religion?

    October 8, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  24. Brent Boswell

    Just because your organization historically labeled “Mormonism” a cult, and non-Christian, does not make it so. The atheists have historically labeled all those who believe in God in similar ways and that simple act of labeling doesn’t make them right either. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as AWAYS taught that Christ came to earth and restored His Church, not man. Not even Joseph Smith. The Church is lead by Christ, as in Biblical times, thus it bears His Holy Name. For info right from the source, visit

    October 8, 2011 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  25. Jimbo

    We need a president who can make wise decisions not one looking to God for instructions.

    October 8, 2011 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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