Pro-Perry SBC Pastor Attacks Romney, Mormons

October 10, 2011

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "Pro-Perry SBC Pastor Attacks Romney, Mormons." It covers the comments made by Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, at the "Values Voter Summit" over the weekend (an event led by the Family Research Council). After endorsing Texas Governor Rick Perry for president and introducing Perry at the event, Jeffress talked with reporters and called Mormonism "a cult." He added that he did not believe former Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian. Thus, Jeffress believes Christians should vote for a Christian like Perry over a Mormon like Romney. Oddly, however, Jeffress said he would vote for Romney over President Barack Obama, apparently because he thinks Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian. Jeffress was part of evangelist James Robison's group that met in June to plot spiritual revival. I broke the news of that meeting, as well as the fact that Perry spoke to the group. The comments by Jeffress are classic confessional politics as people are disenfranchised due to their religious faith (thus it is quite appropriate that Romney is on the cover of my new book on confessional politics).

As I note in today's article, Romney spoke out against religious bigotry in his speech later at the "Values Voter Summit." Similarly, former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman, also a Mormon and the only major Republican presidential candidate who skipped the "Values Voter Summit," called the Jeffress incident "the most ridiculous sideshow in recent politics." He added that talking about Mormonism would not solve the nation's economic or other problems. Huntsman later added that Jeffress is "a moron." Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dismissed the comments by Jeffress as "very unwise and very inappropriate." Other presidential candidates, however, have not stood up like they should against the religious bigotry of Jeffress. Perry's campaign distanced itself from Jeffress--even though they approved him as the introducer--but Perry did not denounce the comments when asked to do so by a reporter. Similarly, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann refused to denounce the comments (even though she will repeat any random theory any random person tells her). Herman Cain also refused to denounce the anti-Mormon comments. He correctly noted that he is "not running for theologian-in-chief," but he should stand up for the constitutional rights of religious minorities. Ironically, he invoked his own religious beliefs as he answered the question and said he was "not getting into that controversy" because his motto is "Do the right thing." Huh? The right thing is to denounce religious bigotry. Of course, Cain is probably the presidential candidate this cycle with the worst record of spouting religious bigotry (see posts here, here, and here). Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum defended Romney but then attacked Harry Reid. He said:

I'm not an expert on Mormonism. All I know is that every Mormon I know is a good and decent person, has great moral values and, by and large, with the exception of Harry Reid, by and large, pretty consistent in the values that I share and that things I want to see happen to this country. And that's what he should be judged on.
Santorum started well but then resorted to confessional politics by attacking Reid's decency due to partisan affiliation. It would be nice if more presidential hopefuls would be willing to speak out against efforts to marginalize Americans of various religious traditions.