Robert Jeffress' remarks about Mormonism being a cult resurrected again during tonight's GOP presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas. Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry at the October 7-9 Value Voters Summit and later endorsed him. In an interview at the Summit, Jeffress told the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer that he was endorsing Rick Perry because Perry was a "true, born again follower of Christ" who was "indwelled with the Holy Spirit."
"Our Founding Fathers truly understood, and had an understanding of freedom of religion," Perry told the debate audience. Saying that individuals have the right to express their opinions, he told Romney that he did not agree with Jeffress' opinion. "Americans understand faith," he added, "and what they have lost faith in is the current resident of the White House."
Romney told Perry that he should have corrected Rev. Jeffress about the Constitution forbidding a religious test of office, saying:
"You know, with regards to the disparaging comments about my faith, I've heard worse, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that. What I actually found that was most troubling in what the Reverend said in the introduction, was he said, 'In choosing our nominee, we should inspect his religion. And someone who is a good moral person is not someone who we should select, instead, we should choose someone who subscribes to our religious belief.'
That idea, that we should choose people based on their religion for public office, is what I find to be most troubling because the founders of this country went to great length to make sure — and even put in the Constitution — that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion; that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there is a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths. That's bedrock principle, and it was that principle, Governor (referring to Perry) that I wanted you to be able to say, "No no, that's wrong, Reverend Jeffress," instead of saying as you did with that introduction, "knocked the ball out of the park." I would have said, "Reverend Jeffress, you've got that wrong. We should select people not based upon their faith" even though — and I don't suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would — but the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue that they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and enormous departure from the principles of our Constitution."