Last week, the political arm of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family released an online video voter guide to help Christians sort through the “pro-family” records of the presidential candidates. The guide offers largely negative appraisals of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, and a far more glowing description of Mitt Romney.
But not everything the voter guide says about Romney is true. In one key part, Tom Minnery, a public policy expert at Focus on the Family, says the following:
Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith, and I appreciate his acknowledging that.
On Saturday, I read this quote to Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s traveling press secretary. He did not hesitate or mince his words. “The governor has not made that acknowledgment,” Fehrnstrom told me. “He has said that his belief is not the same as others. But there is no doubt that Jesus Christ is at the center of the LDS church’s worship.”
In fact, the Church of Latter Day Saints, also know as the Mormon church, holds as a central belief that it is a Christian faith. This belief is a concern for some evangelical Christians, who see Mormonism as a competing religion. On the campaign trail, Romney has avoided discussing his faith in depth, and he has acknowledged that there are differences between his faith and others. But he has not been quoted saying Mormonism is not a Christian faith.
“Now some people define ‘Christianity’ differently,” Fehrnstrom continued. “Some people believe that ‘Christianity’ is a group of evangelical churches. Others believe that ‘Christianity’ is any church that follows the teaching of Jesus Christ, and that is what the LDS church believes.” I asked Fehrnstrom if that was also what Romney believed. He said yes.
So what is Minnery talking about? On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Minnery “based his interpretation” of Romney’s views on a December address on the role of religion in public life. In that speech, Romney said:
There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.
Minnery told the AP that he believes this means Romney does not believe he is a Christian, an interpretation that strains credulity. In the same AP article, Minnery said that he had spoken with the Romney campaign after posting the video, and that the campaign did not contest his views.
That was on Friday, however. On Saturday, the Romney campaign, by way of Fehrnstrom, said clearly that Minnery is mistaken. Will Minnery revise the voter guide accordingly?
I am trying to get in touch with both Minnery and Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, who coauthored the voter guide. I will post their responses when I receive them.