Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Does it matter in politics?
A prominent evangelical leader who supports Rick Perry says the Mormon religion "is a cult." Several polls show a significant minority of voters would not vote for a Mormon, a subject Mitt Romney may have to address again.
Mitt Romney’s religion – he’s a Mormon – has been raised once again in the Republican presidential campaign.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Mormons in politics
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The question is, will it disrupt his front-runner status, especially among the social and evangelical conservatives who are an important part of the GOP base, frequently overlapping with the tea party?
In introducing Texas Governor Rick Perry at the “Values Voter Summit” in Washington Friday, prominent evangelical leader Robert Jeffress asked, “Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of Jesus Christ?”
Just to make it clear what he was talking about, the Rev. Jeffress, pastor of a large Southern Baptist church in Dallas, later told reporters: “Mormonism is not Christianity. It’s not politically correct to say, but Mormonism is a cult.”
Jeffress said he was not speaking for Perry, nor did Perry choose who would introduce him to the gathering of social conservatives who play an important role in choosing Republican presidential candidates.
But the Perry campaign had to quickly distance itself from the controversial comments about his GOP rival’s religion.
“The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult,” campaign spokesman Robert Black wrote in an email. “He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”
But judging people is part of the political process for all candidates, and that seems especially true when it comes to conservative Republicans and religion.
According to a Pew Research Center poll this summer, 25 percent of all voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if he or she were a Mormon.
More significantly in terms of winning the Republican Party nod, 34 percent of white evangelical Protestants say they would be less likely to support a Mormon candidate, according to Pew. Such voters made up 44 percent of GOP primary voters in 2008 – a group Romney did not do well with before he dropped out of the race.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that only 35 percent of American voters are “entirely comfortable” with the idea of having a president who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church).