Three in four American Protestant pastors do not consider Mormons to be Christians, according to a newly released survey polling 1,000 pastors.
LifeWay Research, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, released a survey Sunday asking American Protestant pastors whether they agree with the statement, “I personally consider Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) to be Christians.”
Three-quarters (75 percent) disagree with the statement, including 60 percent who strongly disagree and 15 percent who somewhat disagree. Only 11 percent somewhat agree, 6 percent strongly agree and 9 percent do not know.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said in a statement, "A person can respect a religious group and even appreciate their commitment to traditional moral values without equating their beliefs with Christian orthodoxy.”
The poll was released on the heels of a Mormon-related controversy that erupted when Pastor Robert Jeffress said at the Values Voter Summit that Mormonism is a “cult.” Jeffress had made the comment at an event where GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was attending.
Jeffress supports Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta, "I think Mitt Romney is a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.”
The question of whether Mormons are Christians is further an issue in this election because not one but two GOP presidential candidates are Mormons. Besides Romney, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is also a Mormon.
A Gallup poll earlier this year found 76 percent of Americans said they would vote for a well-qualified person who happens to be a Mormon for president.
But in the same poll, the public was given other hypothetical choices on whether they would vote for a black, Catholic, Baptist, Jew or Hispanic for president; all of these groups scored better than a Mormon for president. The two categories which fared worse were gay and lesbian, and atheist for president.
According to a 2009 study by Pew Research Center, Mormons comprise 1.7 percent of the U.S. adult population. Compared to this, Evangelical Protestants make up 26 percent and Roman Catholics make up 24 percent of the population. Utah is the most populous Mormon state, with 58 percent of the population being Mormons, followed by California, with 13 percent.
The same study also revealed that the intensity of religious belief and practices of Mormons ranked higher than Evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Mainline Protestants. As many as 83 percent of Mormons said religion was very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent of the general population. Besides Romney and Huntsman, other prominent Mormons in the U.S. include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.
The LifeWay Research poll was conducted by telephone in October 7-14, 2010.