Comments from Fox News host about Romney not being Christian spark debate

Published: Friday, July 22 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, arrive to greet supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H at 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City June 24. Much backlash has come from a remark made Sunday from Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News, who said that Romney isn't Christian.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archive

Since Fox News' "Fox and Friends" host Ainsley Earhardt made comments Sunday morning about GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney not being Christian, there has been no shortage of response to her opinion.

The Christian Post responded by speaking with religious and conservative leaders about the issue and quoting parts of Romney's 2007 speech about his religious beliefs.

Pastor Mark Driscoll spoke with the Post about how he could understand the struggle Christians would have considering Romney for president.

“He supports our values; he doesn’t worship our God,” he said.

Driscoll even went on to say that leaders need to be careful about publicly supporting candidates lest they “turn out to be not that moral.”

Elev8 spoke to Driscoll's thrashing, saying that while immorality has been seen in politics, "there has been no reason to suspect Mitt Romney of any wrongdoing or indiscretions," the article said.

"Immoral acts do not seem to be connected with one denomination more than another," the story said.

The day after Earhardt's comments, GOP hopeful Herman Cain told the Washington Times that while "Romney would be a good choice," he thought Romney's religion would be too great a barrier to gain voters in states like South Carolina and Georgia.

“The reason he will have a difficult time winning the South this time is because when he ran the first time, he did not do a good job of communicating his religion," he said. "It doesn’t bother me, but I know it is an issue with a lot of Southerners.”

“I like Mitt. I supported him in the last presidential election,” Cain added. “I don’t think he is going to be any stronger this time around against Barack Obama, even though Obama has a terrible record.”

Romney supporters were not pleased with what Earhardt said on Sunday, saying that she was being "ignorant" of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

"Earhardt’s comment was bigoted (yes, bigoted) and outrageous," wrote Jayde Wyatt. "The very idea that the United States of America could return to rule by ‘religious clique’ is reprehensible and un-American. Romney’s faith is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe in Jesus."

Earhardt's comments had come in the midst of a discussion about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's evangelicalism relating to his fundraising power — a point of debate discussed by many media types in recent weeks — when compared to Romney.

Before the controversy, Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote on the New York Times' "Room for Debate" page on July 5 that Romney and Jon Huntsman just face the task of convincing 25 percent of voters to vote for them by overlooking their religion, based on a June Pew Research poll that said they are "very resistant" to voting for a Latter-day Saint as commander-in-chief.

Land said it's something that may take a back seat to their concerns about how operations are currently being carried forward on Capitol Hill.

"Many voters who would vote against them in the primary because of their Mormon faith would vote for them in spite of their faith in a general election against a president whose policies they find odious," Land said.

The blogosphere was full of reactions. One of many came from P.J. Miller, who operates a Christian blog.

"What stunned (and deeply disturbed) me was obviously the mainstream media, at least Fox News, now feels it necessary to help the body of Christ know who is a 'real' Christian and who is not," Miller said. "Just relax and leave it to the mainstream secular media to tell you who is or isn’t a child of God."

A blogger named "Amelia T." of Care 2 Make a Difference was critical of Earhardt and the network.

"It’s plain why Fox News is trying to make this into an issue: evangelical Christian leaders are pushing Perry hard to be the presidential nominee, and one of Romney’s potential weaknesses (in addition to health care) is his religion. Will they be successful in making their viewers suspicious of Romney’s Christian faith? It seems like a cheap shot — but after all, it is Fox News."

Email: rwilkinson@desnews.com

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