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Rick Perry backer decries Mitt Romney, Mormons

SHARE Rick Perry backer decries Mitt Romney, Mormons

A Baptist mega-church pastor with ties to Rick Perry bashed Mitt Romney's religious bona fides at the Values Voter Summit on Friday.

Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, is a Perry supporter and the man who introduced the Texas governor Friday at the Values Voter Summit.

Politico reported, "Jeffress described Romney's Mormon faith as a 'cult,' and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries. ... Asked by Politico if he believed Romney is a Christian, Jeffress answered: 'No.' "

Perry's camp quickly moved to distance its candidate from Jeffress. Perry spokesman Robert Black emailed Politico to say, "The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. He is not in the business of judging people. That's God's job."

Video of an interview with Jeffress that took place shortly after he finished his remarks at the Values Voter Summit can be seen here.

The comments Jeffress made Friday are nearly identical to things he said about Romney and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2007-08. Last year Media Matters revisited the prior anti-Mormon statements Jeffress made while also noting the pastor's "long history of inflammatory attacks on gays, Muslims, Mormons and Hindus."

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Friday the church released the following statement: "We really dont want to comment on a statement made at a political event, but those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to mormon.org."

LDS Dems interim chair senator Ben McAdams and interim vice-chair Crystal Young-Otterstrom issued the following statement in response to Jeffress' comments:

"As Latter-day Saints — and Democrats — we are appalled and disappointed by Jeffress' statement that Mormons are not Christian," McAdams and Young-Otterstrom said. "As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we know that the foundation of our belief is the divinity of Jesus Christ. Members of the LDS Church are compassionate, caring individuals who seek to follow the example of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves."

Utah State Democratic party chair Jim Dabakis added, "On behalf of all Utah Democrats, I heartily condemn Jeffress' insult. Mormon-phobia should have no place in America. Latter-day Saints are good, honest, and hard working people," he said. "I love Mormons. The Democratic Party is welcoming to followers of all faiths and creeds and I invite those who feel unwelcome in the Republican Party — because of their faith — to join us."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com