At the recent Values Voters Summit—where conservatives continued their efforts to repel Jewish voters by centering their conference around Yom Kippur (continuing a three-year trend) and favoring anti-Israel Rep. Ron Paul in a straw poll—the news you most likely heard was Pastor Robert Jeffress of Texas, a Rick Perry supporter, who shouted to everyone who would listen that Mitt Romney is a cult member who is going to hell due to his Mormon faith.
What didn’t you hear? The other GOP presidential candidates at the Summit, and there were plenty of them, truly condemning Perry’s supporter and introducer who was engaged in this repugnant faith-baiting.
Kudos to former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough, now of MSNBC, for striking a blow for sanity in POLITICO on Monday and speaking truth to Jeffress and indeed the entire Republican field.
Noting that Jeffress seems to be happily “assuming the Almighty’s role” and judging away, Scarborough writes:
Modern American politics as practiced by Jeffress and his ilk require that Jesus Christ be thrown under the bus with great regularity by the very same people who claim His name. For these modern day Pharisees, a president who declares Jesus Christ as his personal lord and savior is to be doubted if he is from the wrong political party. “I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my lord and savior,” Barack Obama declared at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. And when the president explained how he got through his most difficult years, Obama bluntly proclaimed, “My Christian faith has been my sustaining force.” And yet the same pastor who declared Mitt Romney unfit for office called the defeat of this president “a spiritual imperative.” Really, pastor?
Scarborough also takes on the deafening silence of the rest of the GOP field:
...But the same can be said of a Republican presidential field that refuses to stand up to such hypocrisy. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Perry all exercised their right to remain silent in the face of Jeffress’s outrageous statement. What courage. But what’s new? For years now, GOP leaders have sat silent as extremists called political rivals everything from “Nazi” to “Racist” to “Marxist.” Now we can add “Cultist” to the GOP lexicon. Show some courage, Gov. Perry. Stand up to a powerful supporter, because sometimes being tough requires more of a man than shooting a coyote in the face.
Strong, thoughtful and honest words from a former Republican House member from Florida.
Now if the Republican presidential field could just weigh in as strongly against such judgmental religious vitriol.
** UPDATE 5:20 pm, October 11, 2011 **
The Associated Press reported that Perry refuses to repudiate Jeffress’ remarks. According to the AP:
Aggressively confronting questions about his religious faith, Mitt Romney called on Texas Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday to disavow comments from an evangelical pastor who says Romney isn’t Christian and is in a cult because he is a Mormon. Perry, through a spokesman, declined to do so….
Perry spokesman Mark Miner told the Associated Press that Perry would not disavow Jeffress. Miner said Perry disagrees with Jeffress’ comments and believes Romney is a Christian.
‘The governor does not agree with every single issue of people that endorsed him or people that he meets,’ Miner said. ‘This political rhetoric from Gov. Romney isn’t going to create one new job or help the economy. He’s playing a game of deflection and the people of this country know this.’
Perry has not made extended comments about Jeffress’ remarks. In Iowa Friday, when asked if he believes Mormonism is a cult, Perry responded: ‘No.’
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