Craig Bergman, (pictured above) who
is was the Iowa campaign director for Newt Gingrich for only a few days, voluntarily removed himself from the campaign after he called the LDS religion a cult.
Bergman told a vote focus group sponsored by The Iowa Republican and McClatchy newspapers that Romney's religion could hurt him with Iowa's influential evangelical conservatives. Iowa on Jan. 3 holds caucuses that mark the first US nominating contest in the battle to determine which Republican will face President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
"A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon," Bergman said during the focus group, according to The Iowa Republican. "There's a thousand pastors ready to do that."
As soon as the controversial statement was published to the press, the Gingrich team quickly dispatched a spokesman to repudiate Craig Bergman's statement:
"He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012's pledge to run a positive and solutions orientated campaign," said R.C. Hammond, press secretary for Gingrich.
Another Iowa Gingrich campaign staffer emphasized that Newt did not agree with Mr. Bergman's statement:
Linda Upmeyer, the chairwoman for Gingrich’s Iowa campaign, reached by telephone for reaction this afternoon, said she’s never heard Gingrich himself say anything negative about Mormonism.“I’ve never had any discussion that resembled that with Speaker Gingrich,” Upmeyer said. “I have no doubt there are people that reject Mormonism but I’ve never engaged in a conversation regarding that, ever.”
When Pastor Robert Jeffress called Mitt Romney's religion a cult a few months back, Newt Gingrich, along with the other GOP 2012 candidates were all united on one thing: Pastor Jeffress was wrong to call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a cult:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said someone's specific religion has no place in the conversation.
What's so interesting is that The Iowa Republican was the first to published Mr. Bergman's comments in an article titled, TIR Focus Group: Evangelicals Will Revolt Against Romney Nomination.
While Evangelicals are threatening to revolt in the event Romney is nominated, the 6 million Mormons in this country also might revolt in the event that Mitt Romney loses the Republican nomination:
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church, vote overwhelmingly Republican in most elections. The last time the state of Utah went for a Democrat in a presidential election was in 1964. If you think the voters of Iowa are values voters, you ain’t seen nuthin yet. Compared to the nation’s Mormons as a voting demographic, Iowans seem positively liberal. At the moment, some 30% of Iowa voters seem willing to forgive Newt Gingrich for being a disgraced and corrupt former Speaker, a Washington insider lobbyist, and a serial adulterer. Mormons, not so much. They may not all be for Mitt Romney, but they seem overwhelmingly against Newt Gingrich. And considering the slim margins upon which presidential elections have hinged in recent decades, that may be all it takes to throw the 2012 election into disarray.
This battle between Evangelicals and Mormons has been going since the 2008 election and it needs to stop. NOW.
There is a reason why the Founding Fathers put Article 6 in the Constitution because they saw what the what happened when theological disputes between the Catholics and Protestants did to European politics and they didn't want that to happen here. That is why they did not want people running for office to be excluded from holding office merely because they happen to be of a certain religion. The Founding Fathers would be extremely unhappy if they were alive to see what is happening today.
Political campaigns are NOT the place to carry out religious disputes. It caused too much turmoil and political instability in Europe and it tore many nations apart. The Founding Fathers were aware of this fact and yet we are ignoring this fact at our own peril.
There should be no place for religious bigotry in the Republican party. We cannot tolerate religious division in the GOP. This dispute between two religious groups who may disagree with each other theologically but are in agreement on many of the most pressing moral issues of our day is occur at the expense of the American people who don't want another four years of Obama.
As I have said before, a candidate's values is more important than than their theology. We should not be bickering over a candidate's religion and threatening to revolt merely because we have theological disagreements. If this long running battle doesn't end soon, we won't like the consequences of it.