"We rejected an Evangelical [Harriet Meiers] for the Supreme Court and accepted a Catholic [Samuel Alito]," said Haggard, who was in Salt Lake City to address the Religion Newswriters Association's annual convention. "It's a question of competence." Evangelical Christians are more interested "in good government," than in religious affiliation, the founder and senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., said. As the leader of the influential National Association of Evangelicals, which has 45,000 churches across the United States, Haggard's statement is significant because of the ongoing tensions over theology between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and evangelical Christians. To many, Mormons are viewed as non-Christians because of their extra-biblical scriptures, rejection of historic creeds, claims to divine authority and unique rituals.
Some political observers have already suggested that a candidate such as Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon, would have trouble wooing Evangelicals.
John Green, who studies religion in politics at the University of Akron, told The Salt Lake Tribune last year, "If [Romney] wanted to be president, he would have to get support of Evangelicals in the primaries, especially Evangelical foot soldiers," Green said. "Some of them might have some real reluctance to support a Mormon." In July, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll reported that 37 percent of Americans surveyed would not vote for a Mormon for president - and that clearly included some conservative Christians.
But a group calling itself "Evangelicals for Mitt" take a position similar to Haggard's.
"The 2008 election is for president, not pastor," says the lead essay on the group's Web site. "We would never advocate that the governor become our pastor or lead our churches - we disagree with him profoundly on theological issues." Haggard is clear on LDS theology. "We believe Mormonism is a Christian cult," he said after his speech. "But we have the same positions on many social issues, pro-life and so on." He said that Evangelicals and Catholics have long joined forces on these social issues and a similar dialogue about them between Evangelicals and Mormons is "in the early stages." "We are in search for areas where we can stand together," Haggard said.
When it comes to voting for Romney, it will depend on the other choice or choices. If it came down to Rep. Nancy Pelosi vs. Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, the majority of Evangelicals would choose the Republican Catholic or Mormon, he said. "And don't think Evangelicals will vote as a block in the Primaries, either." email@example.com" Target="_BLANK">firstname.lastname@example.org