Robert Jeffress, a senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, reignited a fire over Romney's religion -- a hot topic in the 2008 Republican primary race -- when he attended the Values Voter Summit on Friday to introduce his choice for the White House in 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Jeffress mentioned the word "cult" in referring to Romney's religion when he spoke to reporters after introducing Perry on stage. The comment drew a strong rebuke from conservative icon Bill Bennett and disavowal from Perry's campaign.
But after considerable backlash, Jeffress stood by his definition on Sunday, saying the Southern Baptist Convention deems Mormonism a "cult," though he distinguishes between a "sociological" cult and a "theological" one.
"I've said that I would vote for Mitt Romney if the choice was Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, but I believe, guys, when we as evangelical Christians have the choice to select a leader to unseat Barack Obama, we ought to give preference to a Christian instead of someone who doesn't embrace historical Christianity," he said.
Adding that he's not the "Jeremiah Wright of the right," a reference to the controversial reverend who led Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where the Obamas attended services for nearly 20 years, Jeffers said his support for Perry over Romney is for more reasons than religion.
"There are reasons to prefer Rick Perry that go way beyond his Christian faith. He is a consistent, conservative versus a conservative out of convenience like Mitt Romney."