Entries in Mormonism (8)


Romney Recalls Vacations in France, Not Missionary Years

File photo. (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute)(ASTON, Pa.) – When a member of the foreign press asked Mitt Romney on Monday about his memories of his time spent in France, it wasn’t tales of his Mormon missionary work that came to mind for the presidential candidate, but his vacations.

“I have a lot of memories of France,” said Romney, who did his Mormon missionary time  in France in the late 1960s and who has talked extensively about his experience there.

“The best memories were with my wife on vacations from time to time in France,” said Romney, who has been criticized for being “out of touch” and has made several comments that have highlighted his wealth during his campaign.

“The last vacation we had there, walking around the city of Paris, walking not just on the Champs Elysees but walking over to the Jardin of Luxembourg and around the city.”

“It’s one of the most magnificent cities in the world, and I look forward to occasional vacations again in such a beautiful place,” he said.

His missionary work in France is one that he spoke about frequently on the trail. Last year Romney told Charlie Rose that the two and a half years he spent overseas was a “very revealing experience.” Romney told reporters trailing him in a New Hampshire suburb last winter as he knocked on doors for votes that the event reminded him of knocking on doors as a missionary in France.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio, Mormon-Turned-Catholic

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Marco Rubio has something in common with Mitt Romney: religion.

The young Tea Party senator, who some have speculated could be on Mitt Romney’s short list of potential running mates, was baptized into the Mormon church when he was 8 and “remained active in the faith for a number of years,” attending LDS youth groups and walking to church most Sundays because his mother didn’t drive, BuzzFeed reports.

Rubio left Mormonism to become a Catholic “a few years later,” and had his first Communion when he was 13, in 1984, the Florida senator’s spokesman told the website.

Romney’s faith has occasionally been a topic of discussion in the Republican primary. Many Americans are unfamiliar with Mormonism, a Christian religion that has been called a cult by a pastor who endorsed Rick Perry and even by Romney’s chief rival, Rick Santorum.

The revelation muddies the prospects of Rubio’s getting the vice presidential nod from Romney. Though many conservatives love Rubio — he overwhelmingly won a straw poll for vice presidential nominee at an annual gathering of conservatives in Washington this month — the bottom of the ticket is often used for balancing a variety of attributes.

BuzzFeed says that its questions to Rubio’s aides about his religion “appear to have sent them into frantic damage-control mode.” The Miami Herald published a blog mentioning Rubio’s Mormon roots just before Rubio’s spokesman called the website to confirm the story. The spokesman said Rubio plans to write about his Mormon faith in a book.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Latino Mormons Express Frustration at Romney's Immigration Stance

John Moore/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Mitt Romney spent last weekend in the Mormon hotbed of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he married wife Ann decades ago. But while he has so far enjoyed widespread support among his fellow Mormons in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, a small but vocal faction of Latino Mormons wants to see Romney defeated.

The former Massachusetts governor’s controversial stance on immigration has alienated some Latino Mormons. In all, Latino Mormons make up 7 percent of Mormons in this country, so their potential influence on Romney’s chances of winning both the nomination and the presidency is limited.

In Nevada, for instance, a state with a large population of Latinos and Mormons, Romney cruised to a victory in the caucuses earlier this month, bolstered by the fact that 26 percent of caucus participants were Mormon, and 91 percent of them voted for him.

But the frustration that some Latino Mormons feel is illustrative of the polarizing nature of Romney’s immigration policy among Latinos nationwide, and the effect that could have on Romney’s chances of winning the White House this year. In the run-up to the Iowa caucuses in January, Romney said that as president, he would veto the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented children of immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.

The fallout from Latinos was immediate.

When asked the next day whether he would back Romney, Juan Rodriguez, a Republican businessman in Des Moines, didn’t hesitate in his response.

“I wouldn’t vote for Romney because he doesn’t support immigration reform or the DREAM Act,” he said. “My business depends on Hispanics basically, and if there’s no immigration reform, we are going to be very affected. Not just me, but all the businesses that, like us, depend on the Latino community.”

The next week in New Hampshire, Esteban and Selma Lopez, a Latino couple in Goffstown who will vote for the first time in the general election this fall, shared a similar sentiment.

“I work in education and I know first-hand how important the DREAM Act is for Latino youth, for kids who are in this country without having taken part in the decision to come here,” Lopez said. “The short answer is I wouldn’t vote for Romney.”

Even the country’s largest Latino Republican group – Somos Republicans – said it would oppose Romney because of his immigration policies, deciding to back rival Newt Gingrich instead.

What makes the opposition to Romney of some Latino Mormons different is that their disapproval of his immigration stance stems not from business or professional reasons, but rather from religious ones.

If Latinos – Mormons or otherwise – go against Romney, that could pose a real threat to his chances of securing the GOP nomination and, later this fall, the White House. In Arizona, along with Michigan, the next state to vote in the primary on Feb. 28, Latinos make up 18 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Nationwide, meanwhile, Latinos make up the nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc, with an estimated 12.2 million Latinos set to vote in the general election. While Romney’s immigration stance might have helped him with some conservatives, it might do him an equal – if not greater – amount of harm with Latinos across the country, even among those who share his faith

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Sent Millions to Mormon Church

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Underscoring the prominent, if little discussed role that Mitt Romney played as a Mormon leader, the private equity giant once run by the GOP presidential frontrunner carved his church a slice of several of its most lucrative business deals, securities records show, providing it with millions of dollars worth of stock in some of Bain Capital's most well-known holdings.

Romney has always been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which requires that members "tithe," or give 10 percent of their income to the church. His family charity, called the Tyler Foundation, has given more than $4 million to the church in the past five years, including $1.8 million in 2008 and $600,000 in 2009. But because Romney, whose fortune has been estimated at $250 million, has never released his personal tax returns, the full extent of his giving has never been public.

Newly uncovered stock contributions made during Romney's Bain days suggest there is another dimension to Romney's support for the church -- one that could involve millions more than has been previously disclosed.

As part of just one Bain transaction in 2008, involving its investment in Burger King Holdings, filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that an unnamed Bain partner donated 65,326 shares of Burger King stock to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holdings then worth nearly $1.9 million. And there were numerous others, giving the church a stake in other Bain properties, such as Domino's Pizza, the electronics manufacturer DDi, the phosphates company Innophos Holdings, and Marquee Holdings, the parent to AMC Theaters.

The Republican presidential candidate's campaign staff confirmed that some of the stock transactions were at Romney's direction, but they would not say which ones.

"Mitt Romney has publicly stated that he regularly tithes to his church," said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, when asked about the Bain contributions. "Some of those church contributions have come through the Tyler Foundation. Others have been donations of stock through Bain. Any shares donated by Mitt Romney are personal shares owned by him."

Saul also noted that not all the shares that appear on Bain securities filings can be attributed to Romney, "as there are other Mormon members of the firm who may also have been making donations to the church of personal shares owned by them."

Questions about Romney's faith have remained largely subdued during the 2012 campaign. Many believe he helped tame the issue during his previous campaign with a December 2007 speech at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, during which he declared that his church would not dictate his actions in the White House, if he was to become president.

"I do not define my candidacy by my religion," Romney said. "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."

Romney said that Mormon church authority is limited to the province of church affairs, "and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."

The Mormon church is distinct from many other American denominations in what it asks from adherents in money, time and commitment -- and not just because it asks young Mormon males to spend two years proselytizing for the faith as missionaries, said Jan Shipps, a religion professor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, and one of the preeminent non-Mormon authorities on the church.

Romney has spoken about the 30 months he spent in France as a missionary, but his role within the church as an adult is largely unexplored. Shipps said Romney has held several significant posts within church leadership, including bishop and "stake" president, a leadership post that covers a sizeable geographic area and requires a significant commitment of time.

Beyond that, Romney appears to have lived up to rigid financial requirements within the church that asks parishioners to contribute 10 percent of their annual earnings.

"People choose their own way of deciding how to tithe," Shipps said. "I know friends who are lawyers who take 10 percent out of their fee. In the 19th century, they would take corn, or wheat. It's up to the person."

Stock contributions, negotiated during his high-wheeling deals while at the helm of Bain Capital, would not be unexpected, she said.

Bain officials said it is common in public offerings, whether in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, or in private equity, for participants to carve out shares to be donated to a favored charitable cause.

Securities records show that Romney found ways to help include the church in some of the companies most lucrative deals, just as other executives at the firm found ways to generate support for their favored charities. Among the companies named on securities filings as "Bain charitable institution donees" were the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, The Boston Foundation Inc., Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, and family foundations run by several top Bain executives.

In some cases the filings are vague about the way stocks are apportioned to the different recipients. In others, such as the 2000 stock sale involving DDi Corporation, the records show the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held 27,016 shares, worth $754,827 at the time of the sale. In a 2008 stock sale involving Innophos Holdings, the church's 50,301 shares were worth nearly $1.4 million. SEC filings for Marquee Holdings note that "certain members and other employees of Bain and its affiliates may make a contribution of shares to one or more charities prior to this offering, including … The Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Romney's own family nonprofit, The Tyler Charitable Foundation, was also cut into numerous Bain deals. The nonprofit, run by Bradford Malt -- the Romney personal attorney who oversees all of the candidate's financial holdings -- passed those stock earnings along to a variety of other charities, including the church.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Will Romney's Mormon Faith Hurt His Chances at Election?

James Devaney/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- “Cult” is the word most Americans used when asked in a new poll to describe how they view Mormons, a view that could hurt GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the primaries.

In a new survey by the Pew Research Center, about a third of Americans -- and the same proportion of Republican voters -- say they don’t believe Mormons are Christians.  That number expands even further when specific religious groups are questioned.  More than half of white evangelical Protestants say Mormons aren’t part of the Christian faith.

That viewpoint could hurt Mitt Romney in the Republican primary, but it is likely to come into play in the general election, according to Pew.  The voters most likely to see Romney’s faith as a negative might still vote for him regardless of religion because they staunchly oppose President Obama.  In the general election, Romney does better in a head-to-head matchup with Obama than any of the other top-tier Republican candidates.

“Republicans who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion are less likely to support Romney for the GOP nomination and offer a less favorable assessment of him generally,” the report states.  “But they seem prepared to overwhelmingly back him in a run against Obama in the general election.”

Americans’ views of Mormons have been virtually unchanged over the past four years.  Just 49 percent say they know a little or a great deal about the Mormon religion.  But their views are heavily shaped by the media.  When asked for a word to describe their impression of Mormons, ”cult,” “polygamy,” “restrictive,” “strange,” or “misguided” topped the list.

Romney’s faith has often come into the spotlight, which is why half of all voters know he is a Mormon, according to Pew.  But it doesn’t reflect his political standing.  Of those polled by Pew, 44 percent of Republican voters said his religion does not make a difference.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Candidates Tune Out Mormon Attack

James Devaney/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- Aiming to keep the economy at center stage in the race for 2012′s Republican presidential nominee, several GOP contenders today downplayed a leading evangelical Christian’s dismissal of Mormonism as a cult and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, a practicing Mormon, as a non-Christian.

“To make this a big issue is just ridiculous right now because every day I’m out on the street talking to people, this is not what people are talking about,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

As Bachmann declined to answer whether she considers former Massachusetts Gov. Romney a Christian, White House hopefuls Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich also tried to drive the debate away from religion. “None of us should sit in judgment on someone else’s religion,” former House Speaker Gingrich said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Rev. Robert Jeffress comments, Gingrich added, had “no place” in the campaign.

“I believe that they believe they are Christians," Cain said.

Cain, running in second place behind Romney, according to national polls, also said he was “not running for theologian in chief” during separate appearances on CNN and CBS.

Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, lambasted Mormonism and Romney to reporters Friday after introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry to an audience of the Value Voters Summit in Washington. Romney, Jeffress said, ”is a good moral man, but those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian.”

Perry, who has been falling farther behind in the polls, said his own views diverged from Jeffress’. “I don’t think the Mormon Church is a cult,” Perry told the Des Moines Register over the weekend, adding that he welcomed political endorsements, even if he disagreed with some of the endorsers’ public statements.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Chooses Not to Address Pastor's Mormon Attack

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose not to take on Pastor Robert Jeffress, a supporter of Rick Perry, who called Romney’s religion, Mormonism, a “cult” on Friday.

Instead, on Saturday Romney took a pre-emptive strike at the speaker who followed him at the Values Voter Summit in Washington -- Bryan Fischer of the conservative American Family Association, who has openly criticized Mormonism.

“We should remember that decency and civility are values too,” Romney said. “One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind.”

In his speech, Fischer said the next president must be a person of “sincere, genuine Christian faith,” though he did not specify whether Romney fit that criteria. (In the past Fischer has referred to Mormonism as a non-Christian religion.)

“We need a president who believes in the same creator in whom the founders believed,” he said.

Before Romney spoke, Bill Bennett, a former U.S. Secretary of Education who now hosts his own syndicated radio talk show, condemned Pastor Jeffress comments, warning: “Do not give voice to bigotry.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry Clarifies Stance on Mormonism, Says It's Not a 'Cult'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(TIFFIN, Iowa) -- Hours after a Rick Perry supporter categorized the Mormon religion as a “cult,” the Texas governor said he does not hold the same view.

Asked if he thought Mormonism was a cult as he walked out of the Jefferson County BBQ in Tiffin, Iowa, Perry said, “No, I already answered that.”

Earlier in the day, a Perry supporter, Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Baptist megachurch in Dallas, told reporters at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., that Mormonism was a “cult,” though he did not mention Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, a Mormon, by name.

Jeffress expressed similar sentiments in 2007 when he said about Romney, “Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”

The Perry press team told ABC News the organizers of the Values Voters Summit selected Jeffress to introduce the Texas governor. But Politico reported that the Perry campaign did approve him as a speaker.

Perry’s speech to the Jefferson County GOP touched on his normal themes of the economic success of Texas, but he also shared his views on “class warfare” being thrown around in politics.

“The idea of class warfare is, on its face, very resentful to America,” Perry said before a crowd of around 250 Iowa voters. “Americans want, they don’t want a handout. They want to be able to work and take care of their family. There’s nothing more important than having the dignity of a job, and I happen to think that anyone who tries to draw or create a wedge between Americans using class warfare really doesn’t understand how Americans think and feel.”

Perry discussed the need to institute stronger economic standards in the country in order to ensure other nations, such as China, know the United States is capable of and willing to engage in competition.

Perry attempted to make his case on immigration and border security, never mentioning controversial legislation he approved that provides in-state tuition to illegal immigrants in Texas. He touted Texas’ efforts in securing the border and passing a voter ID law during the last legislative session.

Perry, who is on his fourth trip to Iowa since announcing his candidacy, reminded the crowd of the importance Iowans hold in electing the next president.

“I’m kind of reminded that pundits don’t choose presidents,” he said. “People of Iowa do.”

The Texas governor will continue to campaign in Iowa this weekend, making stops in Sioux City, Orange City and Spencer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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