LAS VEGAS— Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain acknowledges that he doesn't know a lot about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he says he does know that the U.S. Constitution says there shall be no religious test to run for president.
In a one-on-one interview Tuesday night after the GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, Cain said he doesn't think specific beliefs of members of the LDS faith is an issue that the Republican presidential candidates need to discuss.
He said the matter came up during the Tuesday night debate because Rick Perry's pastor made some unflattering remarks about members of the LDS Church. When CNN moderator Anderson Cooper broached the topic Tuesday, Perry said he does not agree with his pastor's perspective that Mormonism is a cult and that members of the LDS Church are not Christian.
In confessing a lack of specific knowledge about the Mormon faith, Cain said he respects it and he respects the beliefs of LDS Church members.
"It's all about what are your values," Cain said. "And I think that is what is important, not necessarily your specific religious set of beliefs."
Cain described himself as a devout Christian: "Faith has been a big part of my life, all of my life. I joined the Baptist Church at the age of 10. It's the same church my parents joined in the mid-1940s."
He explained that the example set by his parents led to his own belief in the value of faith. "Our parents took us to church," he said. "They were involved in the church. We got involved in the church. As I got older, my faith grew. … You have to develop your own level of faith as you get older. It has always been a big part of my life."
In the years when he was building his career — moving from town to town and job to job — Cain said he and his wife, Gloria, always attended a church in the community. "Because it was a part of us — part of our calmness and tranquility with life itself," he said.
Cain said his faith "was really tested in 2006 when I was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, but my faith helped me get through that experience. It has always been a big part of our lives and it always will. It shapes my values."
Cain credits his recovery from cancer to divine intervention. In his book, "This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House," he wrote: "Why was I spared against those odds? God said, 'Not yet!' Did it have something to do with the Lord wanting me to survive so that I might help set this great nation of ours on its own path of recovery? I had achieved what I thought was my plan in life. My journey now is God's plan."
This isn't the first time Cain has addressed criticism of the LDS Church. In a syndicated weekly column he wrote for the North Star Writers Group, Cain titled an October 2007 entry "Mitt Romney is a Mormon and I am a Baptist: Get over it!" The opening sentence of that article said: "The Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Mormons and a few other faiths have three things in common — they believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God and that he died and was resurrected for our sins."
And here are the closing lines of that same column: "Religious affiliation is a good indicator of integrity and character, but it is not the only predictor of presidential performance. And since the First Amendment to the Constitution protects us from a president imposing his religious preference on the rest of us, I would rather have a president with some religion than one whose religion is suspect.
"'In God We Trust' was no accident by our Founding Fathers."
Flint Stephens has a master's degree in communications from Brigham Young University. He has been an editor and journalist for newspapers in Utah and Illinois. His blog is www.utahvalleydad.com.