The evangelical case for Mitt Romney —and against Robert Jeffress

NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/GETTY IMAGES US Republican presidential hopeful former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leaves after addressing the Family Research Council’s … Continued



US Republican presidential hopeful former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leaves after addressing the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington on October 8, 2011.

If Mitt Romney had run for governor of South Carolina against outspoken conservative evangelical Mark Sanford, Dallas First Baptist Church pastor (and famous Rick Perry fan) Robert Jeffress would have loudly campaigned for Sanford over the “cultist” Mitt Romney.

If Mitt Romney had run for senate from Nevada against outspoken evangelical John Ensign, Robert Jeffress would have been by Ensign’s side, telling Christians that if they were truly “born again,” they’d vote for Ensign.

If Mitt Romney had run for senate from Louisiana, against Catholic David Vitter, Robert Jeffress might have had a tougher choice, but the odds are that he’d hold his nose and campaign for a Catholic over a Mormon.

And in each case he would have been shockingly, embarrassingly wrong. Mark Sanford disappeared and pursued his alleged true love in Argentina,
John Ensign had an affair with the wife of one of his top aides, and David Vitter was a client of the famous “D.C. Madam.” Religious affiliation is no guarantor of virtue.

Pastor Jeffress also has said that God will judge America if it elects a Mormon president because Mormons allegedly worship a “false god.” By his reasoning then, overwhelmingly Mormon Utah (the most religiously homogenous state in the nation) must be some sort of hellhole, a blasted wasteland in the heart of America.

Not so fast. Utah has a lower divorce rate, higher median household income, and substantially lower unemployment than my beloved home state of Tennessee, which also happens to be the home of Pastor Jeffress’s Southern Baptist Convention as well as the evangelical music and publishing industries.

Religious affiliation appears to be no guarantor of earthly success.

In my years as an evangelical conservative lawyer and activist, I have learned (and lived) the painful reality that we evangelicals are all too often no better – and sometimes much worse – than the very people we seek to convert. If God’s strength is truly made perfect in weakness, then we surely give God many occasions to show his power. The gracious gift of knowledge of God and relationship with Him should fill us with humility – not arrogance.

In short, self-identification as evangelical should be irrelevant in presidential politics – neither an asset nor a liability. When voting for president, we should judge candidates by their competence, character, and ideas. Indeed, those are the very factors that drove me to support Mitt Romney for president in the 2008 cycle (when I helped found Evangelicals for Mitt) and to redouble my efforts for 2012, when our nation is in even greater distress.

You want competence? As we search for a president who can lead us from deep economic decline and restore American power and confidence, who can do that better than a man who has specialized in the turnaround, in both the private and public sectors?

Mitt Romney was named CEO of the struggling Bain & Company and brought it all the way back from the brink, leaving it financially healthy and prosperous. He helped found Bain Capital and turned it into an economic powerhouse, creating thousands of private-sector jobs and leaving it with $4 billion under management.

After his private sector success, he was called to save the Salt Lake City Olympics – the first post-9/11 games – from corruption and fiscal collapse. He turned an almost $400 million deficit into a $100 million profit – all while maintaining safety and security in tense times. Then, as governor of Massachusetts, he turned a $3 billion budget deficit into a $700 million surplus and left office with a 4.7 percent state unemployment rate.

What about character? Faithful to his wife and an exemplary father to his sons, there has never been even a hint of scandal around Mitt. And while his recent conversion to the pro-life cause is notorious, his consistent pro-life record as governor of one of America’s most liberal states is unfortunately less known. He won a political leadership award from Massachusetts Citizens for Life after he vetoed expanded access to the so-called “morning after” abortion pill and vetoed a bill permitting embryonic stem cell research in Massachusetts.

As for ideas, no other candidate for president has rolled out both foreign and domestic policy plans as detailed and consistently (and effectively) conservative as Mitt Romney.

Does this add up to a man evangelicals can support? Absolutely – so long as they put aside Robert Jeffress’s bad theology and resist the urge towards religious tribalism. After all, where does such thinking lead? If religious tests dominate the evangelical world, candidates will have an incentive to wear the trappings of faith – even if their heart lies elsewhere.

Article 6 of the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office. This Article may only bind the government, but it also establishes a worthy principle for its citizens. When deciding how to cast your vote, judge the man – not his church.

David French is a religious liberties attorney, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the co-founder of Evangelicals for Mitt.

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  • SpencerMac

    This is the most reasonable article on the subject I’ve seen, Im rooting for the evangelical brethren to move away from this verbal purity test (does he sound like an evangelical/ does he have the correct name?) and use sound judgement in the political world. Mitt with his flaws, is the real deal. His life, family, experience, honestly what are you looking for in THIS TIME in history if its not Mitt Romney. I could care less if he is Mormon, frankly its an asset. Howard hughes used to hire and surround himself with mormons because they were predictable in integrity and character. This is a man who even in mental insanity and paranoia still had a brain that told him what he saw in his hired mormons was the real deal. Honesty, integrity and someone of faith. Even if it wasnt his faith

  • Postino

    Thank you SpencerMac for your comment. I also agree that this was the most reasonable article on the subject.

    I’ll add that the CIA and FBI are also full of Mormons for a reason, trust.

  • wallinger2006

    As a Christian I find attempts by evangelical pastors to get involved in politics annoying. To start with, Jeffress is a Calvinist and many Christians take the view that Calvin’s view on predestination is basically bad theology. Many like me, believe Calvin misread of Paul and Matthew. However, there have always been these doctrinal splits in Christianity. Most people believe they are correctly interpreting the Bible and every body else is wrong. Who cares? The important thing is to live your life as a Christian and for me, that means according to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. I’m not not sure that men like Jeffress really emphasize the Kingdom of God. As Christian you are also not meant to judge others.

  • LOL1

    Yes, as a Christian one should make a judgement. Jesus judged the money changers in the Temple. Your post tells people to be doormats. Shame on you!

  • LOL1

    Yes, the FBI and CIA are full of Mormons and the FBI was SUED because Mormons were being BIGOTS. And CIA Mitchell and Jessen were called the MORMON MAFIA.

  • LOL1

    “This case proves you can fight City Hall and you can win,” Perez said after reading the ruling. “I hope the FBI will look at this as a challenge to make these changes.”

    “Although the class-action suit was decided in El Paso, its origins were in Los Angeles, where Perez filed his first discrimination complaint in 1983 during a prolonged dispute with then agent-in-charge Richard T. Bretzing.” ( Bretzing later joined the Mormon Church security at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City)

    “Perez was Bretzing’s top assistant for almost two years, and the two men clashed soon after their arrival in Los Angeles in 1982. Bretzing viewed Perez as unqualified for a top job in a large FBI office, and Perez saw Bretzing, a Mormon bishop, as a bigot committed to boosting the careers of fellow Mormons over non-Mormons.”

    “The feud between the two men split the FBI’s Los Angeles office during the early 1980s and erupted publicly after the 1984 espionage arrest of former FBI agent Richard W. Miller, an excommunicated Mormon who had been placed on the FBI’s Soviet counterintelligence squad ahead of a Latino agent.”

    “***After Miller’s arrest, Perez amended his complaint against Bretzing to charge religious as well as racial discrimination, claiming that a “Mormon Mafia” within the FBI’s Los Angeles office systematically discriminated against Roman Catholics.”

    Bunton, in a 95-page ruling, rejected the claim of religious discrimination but noted:

    “Some of the testimony at trial was probative of the proposition that Mormon supervisors made personnel decisions which favored members of their church at the expense of Hispanic class members.”

    “In finding that the FBI has discriminated racially against Latinos, Bunton stressed that there was no evidence that the bureau had deliberately set out to discriminate against Latino agents. But he cited examples of Latino FBI agents who have been discriminated against and he called on the bureau’s director, William S. Sessions, to make some immediate changes.

  • LOL1

    Wasn’t Miller ex-communicated AFTER the affair was discovered and this
    trust worthy Mormon was a traitor to the country.

  • david6

    Jeffress appears to be a nasty man. His smug self-righteousness shows that he is neither a good American nor a follower of Jesus.

  • fiscalconservative

    Appreciate the article. Honor and fidelity in one’s more important personal relationships–namely, marriage and children–are the most telling sign of someone’s character. Someone once said: “By their fruits shall ye know them.” I expect the more extreme voices on this forum to immediately counter with what Romney called “poisonous language”, but reasonable people recognize reasonable language, and filter out the rest.

  • LOL1

    david6 == you are actually describing the Romney family.

  • LOL1

    True by their fruits ya shall know them – and rotten fruit mock, discredit, and are dismissive of sexual abuse victims and the innocent lives they destroy. Romney embraces these traits.

    From “Sins of Brother Curtis”

    “The LDS church’s lawyers [argued]: ‘It is not the role of the secular court to pass [judgment] on the wisdom of the ecclesiastical decision to forgive, EVEN IF THAT DECISION ALLEDGEDLY CREATES NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES TO THIRD PARTIES.’

    “It was hard to ignore how utterly divorced the words on paper were from the matter at hand, that children had been sexually violated by a trusted member of the religious community… to [the main prosecuting attorney], the Mormon church seemed to be taking the arrogant position that it had a constitutional right to molest children.”

    And Romneybots continue being dismissive, arrogant which is a characteristic of their faith. People have a right to make a judgement and not be sucked into being intimidated by Romneybot bullies

  • lishalacey

    I don’t really see how your comment is relevant to Romney’s character. You are bringing up a completely unrelated case to show what exactly- that the Mormon church is wrong because of the actions of this man?

    This article is asking us to judge a man based on his character, not his religion, and has provided examples where doing the opposite put men in power who had their moral compasses pointing way South. You don’t see dastardly immoral behavior from Romney.

  • lishalacey

    Once again LOL1, you are missing the point of this article. What “fruits” of Romney’s does your example illustrate? NONE. Romney was not involved in that case. How is it relevant to HIS character?

  • Layne2

    LOL1, their you go again, trying to proving the dems right. You seem intent to continue driving a wedge through the Republican Party. Your prejudice and bigotry only relegate you and those like into a political no mans land. Just admit that you will find any reason you can no matter how thin or non-existent the connection to excuse you from supporting a Mormon Candidate.

  • dpburton

    After his private sector success, he was called to save the Salt Lake City Olympics – the first post-9/11 games – from corruption and fiscal collapse. He turned an almost $400 million deficit into a $100 million profit – all while maintaining safety and security in tense times.

    As a Utah resident this is why I will be voting for Mitt!

  • scdaddyo

    Religious bigotry in 2008 gave us a Muslim who claims to be christian in the White House. This allowed Obama to continue his assault on Christianity.

    I would think that Jeffress would easily vote for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to defeat a further assaults on Christianity.

    He might just have to exercise some faith in God to do it.

  • rayfinn1

    Wow! David, without being mean spirited, you absolutely hit it out of the park! (Have the Red Sox called yet?) When Nathan told David the parable of the ewe lamb, it struck his heart. If this response to public bigotry does not penetrate the heart of Jeffress and his followers, they they are as spoken of, beyond hearing because of the hardness of their hearts. I have many Reagan Democrat friends tel me that this type of conduct scares them away from the Republican party. They are just as afraid of Jeffress as president as they are of Jeremiah Wright. Neither are representative of mainstream America. Bravo!

  • rayfinn1

    Lol1, Peter hastily judged a Roman soldier by taking off his ear. This is the kind of judgement that offends God. Now be a good person and see if you can find any more ears severed by Jeffress and start doing some healing. Also it may pay to revisit the story about the mote and the beam.

  • itsthedax

    Why is it that evangelicals constantly question President Obama’s religion, but immediately dismiss any discussion that Gov. Romney is not a christian?

    Oh yeah, they’re hypocrites.

  • justagit

    LOL1, I am going to use your logic and make a judgement of my own: You are not a conservative christian trying to sway his republican constituents. Rather, you are an Obama-supporting democrat pretending to be a concerned republican. Your only concern is making sure Obama gets another 4 years. To this cause, you are attempting to confuse the minds of christian republicans who may or may not be easily influenced by broad, religious bigorty and hatred toward another man’s religion. Your efforts are noteworthy, yet laughable. Please give our fellow countrymen a bit more credit. Many besides myself can see right through your guise.

  • uaintdown2

    this is about evangelicals who question romney’s religion. you obviously didn’t read (or understand) the article.

  • uaintdown2

    i agree, grand slam on this one!

  • uaintdown2

    very well spoken! Amen and Amen!!

  • tommyh9999yahoocom

    Bravo David! You make an important case against Jeffress management of choosing a candidate. I hope others will pick up on this and hold Jeffress and others to account.

  • MinJae1

    LOL1 is a troll – your best bet is to just ignore the troll. They have nothing good to add and just bite anyone who gets close.

  • ccnl1

    From the Land of More and More:


    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting “mothers and fathers” of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39. 39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

  • ike8

    Thank you David!

  • Secular1

    Seems to me that Mr. French is quite selective of when the religious test should be applied and when not. That selection is only based on who the contestants are. In case of Obama and anyone else they do not mind in first casting him as a muslim and then rail about how he is or will assault their dear christian church. But when it Mitt Romney, then of course we should not apply any religious tests. For his information article six applies to the government and individuals too. If it does not apply to individuals then why does it have to apply to us collectively. The only issue with article six applying to the government is because any such test application can be proven in a court of law. Where, as such maleficence is impossible to prove and they would be far too many to prosecute even if one were able to prove it.

    For all the comparisons he made with all the scoundrels in the republican party, I bet he would have picked all the scoundrels against any democrat in those individual contests. Mr. French save your tears for another day, for someone really deserving. Your buddy, is every bit a hypocrite as you are, a flip flopper, and a bigot. This sorry excuse for a human, could not even bring himself to condemn the pond scum booing the gay soldier, even when he was invited to do so. He is spineless lapdog for the significant fraction of republicans who are bigots, crazies, wing nuts. This guy would dump his mormonism, today to get elected, but for the fact that it would in his estimation be read as too much for what it would be. This rotten man narrates the fairy tale of tears when his church started to abrogate its tenets of letting blacks into teh church. Why di this pond scum keep quite till that day as an adult, why did he not walk out on that blighted church. Or he should have at least fought that vile practice in the church, but no. Instead he made up crap about crying in joy.


  • funuvit

    The Pastor endorsing Perry said in an interview with Anderson Cooper that Mormonism is a cult and went further to say: “…theologically, a cult is a religion that has a human founder verses a divine founder. Joseph Smith is the founder of Mormonism verses Jesus Christ, to whom we look as the head of our church.”

    Fact: The Baptist religion was founded by John Smyth in 1609 when he chose to baptize himself as a separatist from the Church of England without any particular claim to divine guidance from Christ to do so, but saw the baptism of babies as inconsistent with his interpretation of The Bible.

    Fact: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 under the premise that God, through Jesus Christ, directed through divine revelation to Smith to establish His organized religion on the earth for latter days.

    I’m not not writing to convince anyone of anything regarding faith or religion. But, does anyone else see flagrant HYPOCRISY merely based on FACTS alone without differences in FAITH?

  • ccnl1

    Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion however vitiates his Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??