Authors: Andrew Throdahl
(WASHINGTON) -- Aiming to keep the economy at center stage in the race for 2012′s Republican presidential nominee, several GOP contenders today downplayed a leading evangelical Christian’s dismissal of Mormonism as a cult and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, a practicing Mormon, as a non-Christian.
“To make this a big issue is just ridiculous right now because every day I’m out on the street talking to people, this is not what people are talking about,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
As Bachmann declined to answer whether she considers former Massachusetts Gov. Romney a Christian, White House hopefuls Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich also tried to drive the debate away from religion. “None of us should sit in judgment on someone else’s religion,” former House Speaker Gingrich said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Rev. Robert Jeffress comments, Gingrich added, had “no place” in the campaign.
“I believe that they believe they are Christians," Cain said.
Cain, running in second place behind Romney, according to national polls, also said he was “not running for theologian in chief” during separate appearances on CNN and CBS.
Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, lambasted Mormonism and Romney to reporters Friday after introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry to an audience of the Value Voters Summit in Washington. Romney, Jeffress said, ”is a good moral man, but those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian.”
Perry, who has been falling farther behind in the polls, said his own views diverged from Jeffress’. “I don’t think the Mormon Church is a cult,” Perry told the Des Moines Register over the weekend, adding that he welcomed political endorsements, even if he disagreed with some of the endorsers’ public statements.
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