The Ticket

Not going there: GOP candidates won’t criticize Romney for his faith

Chris Moody
The Ticket

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Romney addresses the Values Voters Summit (AP)

It was bound to come up on the campaign trail sooner or later, but it appears that among the candidates now vying for the GOP presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith will not be made an issue this election cycle.

None of the Republican presidential candidates took an opportunity to criticize Romney for his religion over the weekend, after Texas Gov. Rick Perry accepted a public endorsement from a prominent Texas pastor who said as a Mormon, Romney was a cultist.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas who introduced Perry at the Values Voters Summit over the weekend, told the crowd they had a choice between Perry, "a committed follower of Christ" or merely a "good" person, insinuating that Romney wasn't a Christian. Speaking to reporters after the event, he called Romney's religion a "cult."

"I really think the decision for conservative evangelical Christians right now is going to be, do we prefer somebody who is truly a believer in Jesus Christ, or somebody who is a good moral person but he's a part of a cult," Jeffress said.

Perry's campaign responded quickly, saying that Perry did not endorse Jeffress' view.

Neither did any of the other candidates--either that, or the candidate declined to state his or her opinion.

Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, scoffed when asked if he thought Mormonism was a cult.

"No," he said. "I don't believe it is."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also refused to make it an issue.

"None of us should sit in judgment of another person's religion," he said on CNN.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, also a Mormon, dismissed the incident as "a ridiculous sideshow," while Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain declined to take a position on the issue.

"This is so inconsequential as far as this campaign is concerned," Bachmann said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "We have religious tolerance in this country, and we understand that people have different views on their faith, and I have a very sincerely held belief on faith, and I think we just leave it at that."

"I am not going to get into an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity," Cain said. "I'm not getting into that."

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