SBC’s Richard Land: Romney Not a Christian, Compares Mormonism to Islam

Wednesday, 29 Feb 2012 06:33 PM

By Jim Meyers and John Bachman

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Dr. Richard Land, a leading figure in the influential Southern Baptist Convention, tells Newsmax.TV he does not consider Mitt Romney and other Mormons to be Christians — and likens Mormonism to Islam.

Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant body in the United States, with more than 16 million members. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body.

As one of the leading voices of the SBC, Land’s views on the GOP primary race are significant because the SBC’s membership has been a key constituency of the Republican Party’s national coalition that has given it electoral success for congressional and presidential races.

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And Land’s comments may indicate that, even if Romney wins the GOP nomination, he may face resistance from GOP base voters.

Asked whether the SBC views Romney and fellow Mormons, whose church is known formally as The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, as Christians, Land declares: “No. Mormonism is not an orthodox, Trinitarian, Christian faith. They do not believe the same thing about God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit that we believe.

“Perhaps the best way to describe Mormonism, perhaps the most charitable way to describe Mormonism, is that it’s a fourth Abrahamic religion, with Joseph Smith playing the role that Muhammad plays in Islam and the Book of Mormon playing the role that the Quran plays in Islam. It’s based upon the Christian faith and the Jewish faith but it goes beyond them and it contradicts them.

“Islam is not a Christian faith. Mormonism is not a Christian faith,” he said with emphasis.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, expressed a similar view about Romney and his Mormon faith in a recent interview with MSNBC.

Asked whether Romney was a Christian, Graham said no.

“Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith,” Graham said.

“They believe in Jesus Christ. They believe in a lot of other things, too, that we don’t accept theologically.”

But both Graham and Land insisted that, despite differences in doctrine between Christians and Mormons, Christians could vote and that there should be no religious litmus test for the position. Graham also told MSNBC that Romney “would be a good president if he won the nomination because I think he’s got the strength, business-wise, politics-wise. He’s sharp guy. And he's proven himself.”

Land agrees with the sentiment: “The fact that a person is not a professing Christian and is not a member of a Christian faith should not disqualify him or her from running for president. I would vote for a pro-life, pro-family Jewish person over a pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage Southern Baptist. As Martin Luther once said, ‘I’d rather be governed by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.’”

But leading pollster Matt Towery tells Newsmax that Romney’s religion is likely to be more of a factor in the primaries than in a general election should he win the nomination.

“I think it remains a concern in these particularly strong Bible Belt states,” explained Towery, chief pollster for InsiderAdvantage. “I don’t think for example in Georgia it will have as big an impact as perhaps in Tennessee or Oklahoma or some of the other states you might deal with — Alabama and Mississippi I think it’s going to be more substantial.”

Towery said Romney’s larger problem is what he described as a perception among voters that the former Massachusetts governor is part of a “clique” based on religion, wealth, or establishment.

Even so, Romney’s religion “could shave off just enough to make things problematic but I don’t believe based on everything I’ve seen that the Mormon issue is going to be the issue that would cost Romney the election,” Towery added.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato agreed.

Some evangelicals "will stay home because their faith does not permit them to back a Mormon," Sabato said. "But I honestly believe we are talking about a relatively small number. President Obama will reunify the vast majority of Republicans and conservative independents in the fall election.

"If Baptists boycotted the polls in November, it would cost Romney — and lots of other Republicans — the election. Mr. Land is correct. It won't happen," Sabato added.

Land, meanwhile, also told Newsmax that he does not trust Romney “as completely” as he trusts his Republican presidential rival Rick Santorum.

Land was asked whether he is concerned about the possibility of a Romney presidency, given his changing views on issues including abortion and gay marriage.

“Do I trust him as completely as I trust Rick Santorum? No, because I’ve known Rick Santorum when he was in the Senate, I’ve worked with Rick Santorum when he was in the Senate, and I know that he was willing to carry the pro-life cause when no one else in the Senate was willing to do it,” Land says.

“I have no doubts where Mr. Santorum stands on these issues and he’s been always on the right side of these issues, whereas Mr. Romney has come to them later. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hold them genuinely now.”

If Romney does win the GOP nomination, Land says, “you’ll have a lot of Southern Baptists who will vote for him enthusiastically and you will have many others who will vote for him with less enthusiasm. Do not underestimate Barack Obama’s unique ability to excite people about voting for his opponent.”

Land says he disagrees with the media’s view that Santorum has chosen to take on Romney on social issues rather than the economy.

“I’m not sure that he’s made that decision. It may be that the media is trying to make that decision for him,” he says.

“If you look at what he’s talking about, he’s talking about the economy and about his plan for the economy more than he’s talking about social issues. It’s just that the press is reporting what he says about social issues, digging up what he said in the past about social issues, and whenever he’s on a Sunday talk show, that’s what they ask him about.

Land also discussed other current news topics with Newsmax:

Abortion:
Asked about the SBC’s position regarding Obama’s new mandate on abortion and contraception, Land responds: “We are adamantly opposed to the president’s proposal.

“This is about conscience, it’s nothing about contraception. This is about coercion, nothing about Catholics. This is about freedom, it’s not about fertility. This is about whether or not the federal government can force people to pay for something that they find unconscionable or pay a fine or not have health insurance.

“If the Supreme Court does not declare the mandate unconstitutional, and if the Obamacare goes into effect, every health insurance program in the country will be required by force of law to provide free contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services.

“Let’s say that Catholic charities and Baptist charities say that we can no longer offer insurance under these provisions, then each individual is going to be faced with a choice that seems as un-American as it could possibly be: Am I going to buy insurance that subsidizes and pays for free contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services that may violate my conscience or am I going to pay a fine or am I not going to insure my family?”

Condemned Iranian Pastor Yosef Nardkhani: The latest reports show an execution order remains in effect for Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor in Iran who is charged with apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity.

The threatened execution “sends the message that the mullahs in Tehran are fanatics. They live in a pre-modern country — in a modern, civilized country you don’t kill people that you disagree with about religious matters — and they are very dangerous.

“The only thing that has kept this dear pastor from being executed already is the cold, public light of world opinion being focused on Tehran.”

If Iran proceeds with the pastor’s execution “it will take the mask further from the face of the radical Islamic regime in Iran and show that this is the kind of remorseless, uncivilized behavior that they’re going to perpetrate on anyone that they can get within their confines and within their authority,” Land tells Newsmax.

“All people who believe in human dignity and human rights should be opposed to this radical Islamic regime in Tehran — a regime, by the way, that, if the Iranian people could have a fair election, would be sent packing. That was shown by the demonstrations in 2009.”

As for the Obama administration’s efforts to save the pastor’s life, Land comments: “We don’t know what they’re doing privately. I do know that in my years working on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that we have taken up particular cases of people who were in jail and we were told, ‘We’ll let them out if you don’t take credit.’ So we don’t know what they’re doing privately. I hope that their comparative silence means that they think they can do more through private, backchannel diplomacy.”

Christian Persecution: Commenting on the persecution of Christians in other countries, Land says Obama “could be doing far more than he’s doing.

“I’m hopeful that the president is weighing in and the secretary of state is weighing in on this at the highest level. If not, then they deserve to be severely criticized for not doing what they should be doing: To stand up for bedrock, basic human principles of freedom and freedom of conscience.”

Israel: Finally, Land was asked whether he believes Israel would be morally justified in attacking Iran over its nuclear weapons program.

“Absolutely,” he declares. “Israel faces an existential threat. The leader of the Islamic regime, Mr. Ahmadinejad, has said that Israel is a one-bomb state, that he could do with one atomic bomb what Hitler did in the Holocaust. You have to assume that he believes this.

“He’s extreme even for the Islamic extremists. He believes that it is his purpose in life to bring about a worldwide Armageddon that will then bring back the 12th prophet who will set up a worldwide Islamic caliphate. In a normal country, Mr. Ahmadinejad would be institutionalized, but he’s not in a normal country and he’s the head of the country that he runs.

“The Israelis have to take him at his word. I don’t see how the Israelis can allow the Iranians to obtain an atomic bomb because they have said they will use it to destroy Israel’s very existence.

“Just-war theory doesn’t say you have to wait to be attacked. If you are in imminent danger of being attacked, you can respond. We didn’t wait until those missiles in Cuba were operational before the president put a blockade around Cuba, which is an act of war.

“Absolutely I believe that Israel would be morally justified in attacking."

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