GREEN BAY, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was questioned about his Mormon faith while campaigning for Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.
A Ron Paul supporter, 28-year-old Bret Hatch, asked Romney whether he agreed with a passage from the Book of Mormon that describes a cursing of people with a "skin of blackness." Romney's staff took away the microphone before the Green Bay man could read the passage.
"I'm sorry, we're just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view, but if you have a question I'll be happy to answer your question," Romney said Monday.
Hatch then asked whether Romney thought it was a sin for interracial couples to have children.
"No. Next question," Romney responded curtly.
Hatch was citing verses from Mormon scriptures which he argued called it sinful for blacks and whites to have children.
Such allegations are often made by critics who accuse The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of racism and consider Mormon teachings heretical. The church barred men of African descent from the Latter-day Saint priesthood until 1978. Some Mormons may have heard verses from scripture cited in their communities as an explanation of why blacks were not allowed to become priests.
However, church leaders have said the origins of the prohibition are unknown. The church recently issued a statement from its offices in Utah denouncing racism and warning against what it called speculation about how the ban came to be.
"For a time in the church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent," the church said. "It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago."
Romney often talks about the decade he spent as a volunteer Mormon pastor in the Boston area before becoming governor of Massachusetts.
Not long after Hatch's question, Romney reflected upon that experience.
"This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion. I'll talk about the practices of my faith," Romney said, noting that his service as a pastor helped him connect with people on "a very personal basis."
"Most Americans, by the way, are carrying a burden of some kind. We don't see it. We see someone on the street, they smile and say hello, but behind them they're carrying kind of a bag of rocks," Romney said. "I want to help people. I want to lighten that burden."
AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.