WASHINGTON – "Poisonous language does not advance our cause,” former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said while addressing the evangelical Christian audience at the Values Voter Summit Saturday. His words were a direct retribution to Bryan Fischer, a director at the American Family Association, who took the stage directly after Romney.
Fischer has made many controversial statements in the past regarding homosexuality and Islam. He has also publicly denounced Mormonism, saying it is not a genuine Christian faith.
The governor’s family has deep roots within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said that Fischer’s statements often “cross the line.” Romney never mentioned Fischer by name, however, and just referred to him as “one of the speakers who will follow me today.” Later, Romney’s campaign confirmed that the remarks were directed toward Fischer.
“The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate,” he added. "The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us; let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart.”
Fischer has made his controversial beliefs known that he disapproves of the Mormon and Muslim faiths. Because Mormons and Muslims have "a completely different definition of who Christ is" than the founding fathers did, they do not deserve the protections provided by the First Amendment, he has said.
When Fischer took the stage Saturday morning, he did not condemn the Mormon faith by name. Instead, he said that the next president "needs to be a man of sincere, authentic, genuine Christian faith."
"We need a president who believes in the same Creator as who the founders believed," he added.
Fischer was not the only speaker at the Values Voter Summit that took a swing at the governor’s Mormon faith.
On Friday, Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress called Mormonism a “cult” as he introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the stage. Perry graciously thanked Jeffress for the introduction, making no condemnation of the pastor’s controversial remark.
Many people expected Romney to address Jeffress’ comments on Saturday but the Massachusetts governor made no mention of it. Instead, radio host Bill Bennett, who introduced Romney to the stage, gave his two cents worth by calling the pastor’s comments an example of “bigotry.”
"Do not give voice to bigotry," Bennett said, condemning Jeffress. "You stepped on and obscured the words of Perry and Santorum and Cain and Bachmann and everyone else who has spoken here. You did Rick Perry no good sir, in what you had to say."
Romney came on stage directly after Bennett, looking pleased with what was said. He told the crowd that Bennett "hit it out of the park."