Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to repudiate comments made by a pastor who endorsed Perry last week and said that Romney, who is Mormon, was part of a "cult."
"I just don't think that kind of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country," Romney said when asked about the comments at a Tuesday press conference with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed him. "I believe in the spirit of the founders when they crafted this nation. They said we would be a nation that tolerated other people, different faiths that would be a place of religious diversity. . . . I would call on Governor Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor."
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, introduced Perry before he spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. last week and said that Christian voters should not vote for Romney because of his Mormon faith.
"We understand Mormonism is not Christianity and thus the difference between somebody who's moral and good like Mitt Romney and a true born-again follower of Christ," Jeffress said. "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."
"It's true," he added. "Mormonism is a cult."
Perry's campaign spokesman said shortly after the comments were reported that Perry "does not believe Mormonism is a cult." At a campaign event in Iowa the next day, Perry said three times that he disagrees with Jeffress.
Romney and Perry will square off in a debate Tuesday night in New Hampshire.
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