WASHINGTON – Presidential contender Mitt Romney is being advised not to equate Mormons to Christians because doing so will cause tension with many Christians who do not consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as part of historic orthodox Christianity.
"I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say 'I am a Christian just like you,'" said Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), according to Bloomberg news.
"If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the difference," Inglis added.
South Carolina is an early voting state and the first primary among Southern states. Romney, like other candidates, are campaigning hard in the state to woo religious voters who make up a significant portion of both party's electorate.
Romney has so far successfully garnered the endorsements of evangelical leaders Bob Jones III and Robert Taylor, the grandson of the founder of Bob Jones University and a top dean at the school,respectively, during his outreach this month to evangelicals in South Carolina.
However, although many evangelical leaders say they want to elect a "Commander-in-Chief" rather than a "Theologian-in-Chief," they still disagree with Romney's calling Mormons, Christians.
"When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals," said Richard Land, a leader in the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention, according to Bloomberg. "He's picking a fight he's going to lose."
Land last week had said during an interview that he considers Mormonism a fourth Abrahamic religion.
"Judaism being the first, Christianity being the second, Islam being the third and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the fourth," said the prominent Baptist leader on the "Political Capital" Program.
He said he views Mormonism as another religion, just as he considers Islam another religion even though it shares some biblical figures with Christianity.
Notably, Mormonism was formally listed under "cults and sects" by the Southern Baptist Convention, but was newly categorized among "newly developed religions" on the North American Mission Board apologetics page.