Pastor says critics trying to 'marginalize religion'
October 18th, 2011
06:50 PM ET
8 years ago

Pastor says critics trying to 'marginalize religion'

(CNN) - The controversial pastor who called Mormonism a "cult" after introducing Rick Perry at a conservative conference is firing back at his critics, saying religion has an important place in presidential politics.

"Hearing Mitt Romney's surrogate Bill Bennett refer to me as a bigot and Jon Huntsman call me a 'moron' last week after my controversial comments on Mormonism, amid calls for civility and tolerance in public discourse, reminds me of the exclamation: 'We will not tolerate intolerance!'" Robert Jeffress wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post published Tuesday.

Jeffress continued, "I am concerned that these men are attempting to prematurely marginalize religion as a relevant topic in elections."

Jeffress is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which boasts a congregation of thousands and a highly visible pulpit. He has publicly endorsed Texas Gov. Perry, and has praised the candidate's evangelical faith as part of the reason for his endorsement.

Speaking to reporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington Oct 7, Jeffress said he thought Republicans should avoid voting for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a primary election because he is a Mormon.

"I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian," Jeffress said.

Jeffress sought to clarify those remarks in his opinion piece Tuesday.

"While I prefer a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian, religion is not the only consideration in choosing a candidate," Jeffress said. "Frankly, Christians have not always made good presidents. We must also consider whether a candidate is competent to lead and govern according to biblical principles."

In the days since Jeffress made the comments, GOP candidates have come out against his sentiments by saying they don't believe religion should play a large part in selecting a candidate. Jeffress disputed those claims in his piece Tuesday.

"Discussion of a candidate's faith is relevant," Jeffress wrote. "During a time of rising unemployment, falling home prices and massive deficits, it is easy to relegate religion as an irrelevant topic. Yet our religious beliefs define the very essence of who we are. Any candidate who claims his religion has no influence on his decisions is either a dishonest politician or a shallow follower of his faith."

Filed under: 2012 • Religion • Rick Perry
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    When it comes to divisiveness and class warfare, the republicans and teavangelicals are not a part of the solution, they are part of the problem. It has gotten to the point that the wealthy teavangelicals and republicans now feel that they are entitled to huge tax breaks, and have no responsibility for the near depression they created.

    October 18, 2011 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  2. GG

    then get an atheist. problem solved.

    October 18, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  3. Bill in Florida

    Hey dude, religion has NO place in US politics. The US Constitution - loved by the GOP except when it impinges on their ideology, then the Constitution is ignored - insists on the separation of church and state.

    October 18, 2011 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. Voice of Reason

    Gee – so maybe your comments about those mormons being part of a cult werent such a hot idea after all, huh? The voice given to religious intolerance in America cuts both ways. We should all learn to respect someone else's beliefs, even if we dont agree. There's nothing wrong with a candidate being religious – in fact, there isnt a single candidate running that hasnt loudly proclaimed their adherence to one religion or another... I just wish at least one of the candidates was competent at running a government as well.

    October 18, 2011 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  5. Joel2012

    I guess this individual doesn't know when enough is enough, period. It seems every time he opens his mouth he is digging a bigger and bigger hole for his candidate to get out of, which is kind of comical. It is however interesting to note that his candidate refuses to refute his words, instead choosing to hide behind the banner of freedom of speech as an acceptable reason for not distancing himself from the pastor's words. If in fact evangelicals are so narrow-minded tas to base their decisions on this one issue, well as the saying goes, heaven help us.

    October 18, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  6. Portland tony

    You don't have to be a great thinker to belong to a religious followering. But this country needs leaders right now. We have enough followers. Remember, in America we vote for the man....not his religion or Pastor!

    October 18, 2011 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. Nothing new here

    If someone is "shallow in their faith", what business is it of everyone else in this country? Does everything have to be an open book – what ever happened to privacy and personal freedoms?
    I would rather have a leader that will lead, and keep his/her religion and personal problems OUT of the office of POTUS.

    October 18, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. Rick in AZ

    My invisible guy in the sky can beat up your invisible guy in the sky.

    October 18, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  9. Ex-republican

    Pay taxes ,buddy and get rid of your "tax-exempt status" as a church. After that, go into politics!

    October 18, 2011 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  10. Sam

    Someone needs to tell all these pastors turned political campaigners that their religious tax exempt status bars them from turning their sermons into partisan political forums. You can be a religion or you can be a political organization. Not both.

    October 18, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  11. Slightly Left of Center

    @GG "then get an atheist. problem solved."

    I second the motion.

    October 18, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  12. once upon a horse

    once Rick Perry's wife claimed that GOD told Rick to run for president I just HAD to chuckle. So the Almighty told him he is supposed to be POTUS and if that is indeed the case there is no way he's going to lose, right? This is why religion has very little place in politics. Our country has too many religions for that to have so much influence on our candidates. And this is coming from myself, a "PK". (preacher's kid)

    October 18, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  13. Tony


    We are not trying to marginalize your religion. We want to make sure people who do not share your religion would not be forced to adopt your beliefs.

    October 18, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |