— Republican Mike Huckabee Wednesday personally apologized to rival

Mitt Romney for comments he made in an upcoming New York Times Magazine

article that appear to disparage the Mormon faith.

GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee's campaign says his comments on Mormons were taken out of context.The former Arkansas governor said he apologized to Romney after the GOP debate in Johnston, Iowa.

\"I said, I would never try, ever to try to somehow pick out some point

of your faith and make it an issue, and I wouldn't,\" Huckabee said.

\"I've stayed away from talking about Mitt Romney's faith,\" Huckabee

said. \"I told him face-to-face, I said I don't think your being a

Mormon ought to make you more or less qualified for being a president.\"

In the article, a preview of which is posted on the New York Times Web

site, the former Arkansas governor is quoted as asking, \"Don't Mormons

believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?\" 

The remark came after New York Times reporter Zev Chafets asked

Huckabee whether he thought Mormonism was a religion or a cult.

Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, said he thought it was the former

but conceded he doesn't \"know much about it.\" The article is to appear

in Sunday's paper.

Asked how Romney responded to the apology, Huckabee said the Massachusetts Republican was \"gracious.\"

\"The governor accepted the apology,\" Romney spokesman Kevin Madden

said. \"He continues to believe that this campaign should not be about

questioning a candidate's faith. While it is fair to criticize an

opponent's record or policy positions, it is out of bounds for one

candidate to question another's personal faith.\"

Speaking with CNN Wednesday, Huckabee expressed disbelief that the comment has caused an uproar.

\"We were having a conversation over several hours, the conversation was

about religion and he was trying to press me on my thoughts of Mitt

Romney's religion, and I said 'I don't want to go there.'\" Huckabee


\"I really didn't know. Well, he was telling me things

about the Mormon faith, because he frankly is well-schooled on

comparative religions. As a part of that conversation, I asked the

question, because I had heard that, and I asked it, not to create

something — I never thought it would make the story.\"


who has surged into first place in Iowa, also reiterated that he

doesn't think a candidate's religion should be an issue in the campaign.

\"I don't think his particular religion is a factor in whether or not

people should vote him or against him,\" he said. \"I'd like to think

that my being a Baptist isn't a factor in people voting for or against


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Huckabee rival for

the 2008 GOP nomination, is a member of the Mormon church, officially

known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Speaking Wednesday on NBC's \"Today\" show, Romney said, \"I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far. It's not the American way.\"

Huckabee's comment is consistent with those that are often used to

vilify the Mormon church, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ

of Latter-day Saints told The Associated Press.

In a statement

sent to CNN, church spokesman Michael Purdy said, \"Like other

Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine son of God. Satan is a

fallen angel.\"

\"As the apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all,\" Purdy added.

\"That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit

children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh and we

worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind.\"

Huckabee's campaign says the article takes the candidate's comments out

of context. Huckabee was not bashing the religion but instead was

\"illustrating his unwillingness to answer questions about Mormonism and to avoid addressing theological questions during this campaign,\" the campaign said in a statement released Tuesday night.

\"Gov. Huckabee

has said consistently that he believes this campaign should center on a

discussion of the important issues confronting our nation, and not

focus on questions of religious belief,\" Charmaine Yoest, a senior

adviser to the campaign, said in a statement. \"He wants to assure

persons of all faith traditions of his firm commitment to religious

tolerance and freedom of worship.\"

Huckabee, locked in a battle

with Romney for support among the evangelical community, also took heat

this month for declining to say whether he thinks Mormonism is a cult.

\"I'm just not going to go off into evaluating other people's doctrines

and faiths. I think that is absolutely not a role for a president,\" he


Huckabee told reporters last week

he didn't watch Romney's highly anticipated speech on his faith. But he

argued that he has been confronted with questions about his faith more

than Romney has and that he also would make a \"God speech\" if given the


\"I get all of the God questions at the debates, so you

know when people say, 'Oh, he had to make a speech,' I'm thinking, 'Hey

you know what? If you'll give me national television time, I'll make

you a God speech, and I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll throw in an

offering and an altar call to throw in with it.' \" CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.