Focus on Family political arm raises questions about Romney

Focus on Family political arm raises questions about Romney

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AP Photo / LM Otero (AP) -- An executive for one of the nation's leading evangelical groups says in a video voter guide that Mitt Romney has "acknowledged Mormonism is not a Christian faith," although the GOP presidential candidate has said he follows Jesus Christ and his church insists it is Christian.

Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action, said in an interview Friday that the comment was his interpretation of Romney's December "Faith in America" speech that was meant to reassure voters about his religion.

Minnery said that he spoke with the campaign after the video was posted this week and they did not contest his view or ask him to retract the statement. "We've got a good relationship with them," he said.

Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, said in an e-mail that "campaign guides by advocacy groups consist of their viewpoints." Madden referred to Romney's faith speech when asked if the former Massachusetts governor considers himself Christian.

Romney has long been dedicated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving as a New England area bishop and helping build a Mormon temple outside Boston, among other services.

Minnery made the comments in "Focus Action Candidate Commentary," a series of short videos meant to help voters understand the positions of leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on issues important to social conservatives.

The Focus Action Web site,, averages about 250,000 visits a month, and is the political arm of James Dobson's Focus on the Family based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Dobson draws a radio audience in the millions and candidates compete for his support. But he has only made one endorsement in a presidential race, in 2004, backing George W. Bush.

Romney is treated favorably in the videos, compared with fellow Republican contenders John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, which is also linked to Dobson's ministry, calls Romney's positions "solidly conservative across the board."

Minnery argues that the media has been unfair to Romney, then says, "Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith and I appreciate his acknowledging that. He said, 'But on the social issues, we are so similar,' and that is true."'

Minnery based his interpretation on the section of Romney's December speech in which the former governor professes "that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind," then acknowledges that religions differ on their beliefs about Christ and "each religion has its own unique doctrines."

Mormons feel maligned by claims that they aren't Christian. The scriptures of Latter-day Saints include the Old and New Testament, but also include sacred books that contain the revelations of their 19th century founder Joseph Smith.

The church said in a statement Friday that "all of our dreams and future aspirations are centered in our belief in Jesus Christ."

To see the voter guide, click the related link.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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