Romney Campaign Disputes Voter Guide
Mitt Romney's campaign and Mormon leaders are contesting a Focus on the Family executive's claim that Romney "acknowledged Mormonism is not a Christian faith."
The Republican presidential candidate's campaign said Romney follows Jesus Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints insists it is Christian.
Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said Romney had not made any indication that Mormonism was not a Christian faith. The Mormon church said in a statement Friday that "all of our dreams and future aspirations are centered in our belief in Jesus Christ."
Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action, made the claim about Romney in the organization's video voter's guide, which is posted on its website. Minnery was not available for comment Monday. A Focus spokesman did not address the remarks made in the video in a response to Christianity Today's inquiries, but said, "We've finished our analysis of the primaries and caucuses that have already occurred."
Minnery told the Associated Press that he based his statement on an interpretation of a section of Romney's December 6 speech in which he professed "that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind," but added, "My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history."
Fehrnstrom said some people consider only evangelical churches to be Christian. "There are other people who feel that 'Christian' applies to all who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind," Fehrnstrom said. "Governor Romney's church teaches precisely that."
Minnery made the comments in videos titled "Focus Action Candidate Commentary," a voter guide that describes the candidates' positions on fiscal, defense, and social issues.
In the videos, Focus commentators spoke positively about Romney more than any other candidate. Tony Perkins calls him "solidly conservative across the board," and compares him favorably to Mike Huckabee on social conservative issues.
Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C. based Family Research Council (which is closely affiliated with Focus on the Family) appeared as a guest on the video. Perkins also declined to comment on Minnery's remarks to CT. He does not plan to endorse a candidate during the 2008 election but said it was natural for voters to consider a candidate's religious beliefs.
"I'm not going to vote for someone just because they are a Christian," Perkins said. "The reverse is true; I wouldn't not vote for someone who is not a Christian. If the candidate has the right track record on the issues, I'm going to look very hard at that candidate."
Beliefnet political editor Dan Gilgoff, who wrote The Jesus Machine about his research on Focus on the Family, says both the Romney campaign and Focus are downplaying their factual disagreement over the LDS's standing with the Christian church because they have a good relationship.
"I think they're both being very nice to each other, considering the circumstances," he said. "They've almost endorsed him with their conspicuous silence on him over the last year. If you're bashing the other candidates, the door is left open to Romney."
Gilgoff said that Focus realizes Romney's Mormon faith may be a deal-breaker for many evangelical voters.
"What Focus is trying to do is show that [Romney] owns up to the fact that he's not part of our faith tradition but it shouldn't be a stumbling block to evangelical support," he said. "Ignoring it is not going to make it go away."