Rick Perry Pastor Pal Says Romney Belongs to a Cult; Perry Not a Racist
In a remarkable exchange with reporters Wayne Slater, Sarah Posner and David Weigel, Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas' First Baptist Church, said that Romney's Mormon faith is a cult. What makes Jeffress' pronouncement especially stunning is the fact that he was chosen to introduce GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, governor of Texas, at today's Values Voter Summit, a major religious-right convention sponsored by the political arm of the Family Research Council, FRC Action. Before Perry took the stage, Jeffress' people began circulating a release on the pastor's endorsement of Perry, and the candidate gave Jeffress a shout-out from the Values Voter stage, mentioning the pastor's 10,000-member congregation.
I stumbled upon Slater, co-author of the book, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, interviewing Jeffress in a hallway at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C., where the conference is taking place. Here's Jeffress, taking to Slater:
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, and it defines Mormonism as a cult. So that is a mainstream view of Mormonism. And, again, I believe that Gov. Romney's a very moral family person, but he's not a follower of Christ. And I said to my congregation last Sunday night, I quoted John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court , John Jay said we as Christian have both as our duty and our privilege to prefer and select Christians as our leaders. And I believe every born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian if things like competency and other things are the same.
Just to make sure, Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches asked Jeffress if he himself believed that Mormonism is a cult. "Absolutely," Jeffress replied.
Yet, even before Jeffress took the stage at the Values Voter Summit, Right Wing Watch was tweeting the pastor's past quotes on Mormonism, which are apparently well-known within circles with which Perry should be familiar.
I asked Jeffress about the matter of the name of the hunting lodge leased by the Perry family -- a lodge known as "Niggerhead," marked as such by a rock at the entryway emblazoned with that word. (The rock has since been painted over.)
Did Jeffress have any moral qualms about the controversy concerning the name of the hunting lodge, I asked.
"I think there's always a moral issue involving racism," Jeffress said. "I think racism is a moral issue. But there is no evidence in my mind that there is a racist bone in the body of Gov. Perry. When you look at his record in Texas, and his appointment of African Americans to positions of prominence, there's not a racist bone in Gov. Perry's body."
When Wayne Slater asked if Romney could win the votes of evangelical Christians, Jeffress expressed his doubts. "I believe that if Gov. Romney is the nominee, that Barack Obama will be the next president."