After his speech this morning, I asked the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer what he thought of Mitt Romney’s comments about him. His reply:
I thought it was tasteless. I thought he was allowing the New York Times and the Southern Poverty Law Center and People for the American Way to dictate the content of his speech, which I think was a mistake for him to do at the Values Voters Summit. That was kind of an insult to the people in the room. . . . I don’t think it helped him.
I then asked Fischer whether he though only an evangelical Christian was qualified to be president. He said, “I didn’t say that,” and to my question of whether he thinks that, he continued to reply, several times over, “I didn’t say that.”
Another reporter asked Fischer whether he thought Mormonism was a cult. He said, “Mormonism is outside the mainstream of historic Christian orthodoxy.” Asked whether being Mormon disqualified someone from being president, he would only repeat: “Mormonism is outside the mainstream of historic Christian orthodoxy.” Given that he had earlier said that the president must be “a main of sincere, authentic, genuine Christian faith,” it’s not hard to figure out what he thinks.
Fischer was also asked whether he believed a Muslim was qualified to be president. “How devout is this Muslim candidate for public office?” asked Fischer. “Because if he is devout, then he will believe in sharia law, he will advocate for sharia law, he will want to enact sharia law, and sharia law is fundamentally contrary to every value and every freedom that we cherish in the west.” That statement is far less likely to cause any intra-Values Voters Summit controversy.
I’ve covered the Values Voters Summit every year since it started; in 2007, the Straw Poll was essentially a showdown between Romney and Mike Huckabee. But the overt anti-Mormon positioning of some—coupled with the pushback from others, such as Bill Bennett and Romney himself, and, implicitly, Jay Sekulow— has reached a new pitch. The Values Voters are warring with each other over this.