Pastor Who Stirred 'Cult' Furor Says Religion Relevant in Politics

Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 01:59 PM

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The full-throated defense of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is an attempt to “prematurely marginalize religion as a relevant topic in elections,” Pastor Robert Jeffress writes in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post.

Jeffress, who heads the First Baptist Church in Dallas, stirred controversy recently when he introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, praising him for being a “born-again follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ” and later saying in interviews that “Mormonism is a cult.”

In his piece in the Post, Jeffress notes that Romney backer Bill Bennett referred to him as a bigot, and Mormon and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman called him a “moron.”

“Utilizing such incendiary rhetoric against those of us who dare bring up a candidate’s spiritual beliefs cuts off discussion about religion before it begins,” he wrote. “However, polls continue to reveal that a large segment of the population does care about a candidate’s faith. Voters who embrace any faith — or no faith — should consider the following:

“First, discussion of a candidate’s faith is permissible. Over the past several days, talk show hosts have lectured me about Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits religious tests for public office, as if considering a candidate’s faith is somehow unconstitutional, un-American or even illegal. How ludicrous. This is a not-so-subtle attempt to eliminate through intimidation religion as a suitable criterion by which to choose a candidate. The Constitution is referring to religious litmus tests imposed by government, not by individuals.”

Jeffress said it is easy to portray religion as irrelevant in these bad economic times, but “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.”

Anyone, whether on the right and left, is “disingenuous” in claiming a candidate’s faith is off limits, Jeffress wrote. He noted that Rep. Michele Bachmann has been questioned about “how her religious belief about submission to her husband would affect her performance if she were president” and that conservatives “spent most of the 2008 election calling for an investigation of Barack Obama’s religious beliefs in relationship to his membership in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church.”

“During this firestorm I’ve reignited over the role of religion in politics, some have quoted Martin Luther as saying he would rather be governed by a competent unbeliever than an incompetent Christian,” Jeffress concluded. “Yet evangelicals should remember that the purpose of the primary process is to keep us from having to make such a choice. At this point we have the opportunity to select both a competent leader and a committed Christian.”


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