(AP/The Huffington Post) WASHINGTON — Two Republican presidential candidates refused to say on Sunday whether they believe Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian.
Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain declined to address the matter, saying he didn't want to get involved in brewing controversy over Romney's religion on CNN's "State of the Union."
"He's a Mormon, that much I know," Cain said. "I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity for the sake of answering that. I'm not getting into that."
Elaborating on his posture toward the issue he said, "If that's what it looks like, that I'm dodging it, it's because it is not going to help us boost this economy. You know that's my number one priority."
Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann also opted against answering the question, saying she considers the issue unimportant to the Republican presidential campaign.
"This is so inconsequential as far as this campaign is concerned," she said. "To make this a big issue is ridiculous right now, because every day I'm on the street talking to people. This is not what people are talking about."
According to Bachmann, the "real focus" is on "religious tolerance."
At the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. on Friday, Romney's religious faith landed in the spotlight when Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Texas pastor, introduced Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at the event. HuffPost's Jon Ward relays background on what Jeffress had to say:
Jeffress also slyly played the Mormon card, hinting to the audience that because Romney is not an evangelical Christian -- he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- he is not as desirable a candidate for religious conservatives.
"In a few months, when the smoke has cleared, those of us who are evangelical Christians are going to have a choice to make," Jeffress said. "Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric, or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience, or one who is conservative out of deep conviction? Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?"
Perry, arriving on stage after Jeffress' introduction, said the pastor had "hit it out of the park."
In remarks to reporters after Perry's speech, Jeffress called the Mormon church "a cult," according to another reporter who was present.
Jeffress has made similar comments in the past.
When asked if the remarks were appropriate, Cain responded, "I don't think it's appropriate to say, but he said it. OK? He said it, but I don't want to get into that."
Rev. Jeffress defended his statements on CNN on Saturday. He said, "Mormonism has never been considered a part of evangelical historic Christianity."
The Perry campaign has distanced itself from the pastor's remarks. A spokesperson for the Texas governor's political operation told The Huffington Post that Perry "does not believe Mormonism is a cult."
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