The Mormon issue is back with a vengeance in the Republican race for president. Will Mitt Romney’s faith weigh on him as he tries to cement himself as the frontrunner after activists’ serial flirtations with conservative non-Mitt alternative candidates?
It all started with some inflammatory remarks by a Texas pastor, a supporter of that state’s governor, Rick Perry, at the Value Voter summit of evangelical conservatives in Washington on Friday afternoon. Rev. Robert Jeffress said that he did not believe Romney is a Christian, and told reporters that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) is “a cult.”
“Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian,” Jeffress said. Perry campaign spokesmen said that the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult, but refused to criticize Jeffress and did not address the question of whether members of the Church are Christians.
Many conservative evangelicals do not believe the Mormon church is a truly Christian domination, and that became an undercurrent that hampered Romney in his unsuccessful 2008 race for the GOP nomination. At one point, the former Massachusetts governor and investment banker delivered a Kennedy-style speech about religion in College Station, Tex., in which he said his duty to the Constitution and the nation would control his actions as president, not the doctrines of the Mormon Church.