Why is Bob Jeffress, the Baptist leader and Rick Perry endorser who kicked off a storm when he said Mitt Romney is not a Christian and belongs to the “cult” of Mormonism, still talking? And why are major media institutions giving Jeffress a national platform to push the view that conservative Republican primary voters should hold Romney to a kind of religious test?
Jeffress been everywhere in the last two weeks, appearing on “Real Time With Bill Maher” this past Friday (video below) and on the Op-Ed page of the Washington Post, where he writes:
First, discussion of a candidate’s faith is permissible. Over the past several days, talk show hosts have lectured me about Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits religious tests for public office, as if considering a candidate’s faith is somehow unconstitutional, un-American or even illegal. How ludicrous. This is a not-so-subtle attempt to eliminate through intimidation religion as a suitable criterion by which to choose a candidate. The Constitution is referring to religious litmus tests imposed by government, not by individuals.
Interestingly, John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court and co-author of the Federalist Papers, thought a candidate’s religious beliefs should be a primary consideration in voting. Jay wrote, “It is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” According to Jay, preferring a Christian candidate is neither bigoted nor unconstitutional.
While I prefer a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian, religion is not the only consideration in choosing a candidate. Frankly, Christians have not always made good presidents. We must also consider whether a candidate is competent to lead and govern according to biblical principles.
How long will the apologia continue, and will this campaign succeed in branding Romney (even more) as the stiff, well-behaved Mormon? There’s a sense that much of what drives Southern Protestants — and Americans in general — crazy about Mormons is that they go to such gosh-darn lengths to demonstrate that they sin less than the rest of us, forced marriages, child rape court cases and the Fundamentalist sects that won’t go away notwithstanding.
VIDEO: Here’s Jeffress talking Mormons, morals, and more on “Real Time With Bill Maher”: