Washington • A Florida pastor plans a news conference Monday to call on presidential candidate Mitt Romney to renounce his "racist" Mormon faith.
The Rev. O'Neal Dozier, senior pastor of The Worldwide Christian Center Church on Pompano Beach, Fla., says Democrats and President Barack Obama would use Romney's "racist religion as a secret weapon" to attack the Republican in the general election.
"The Mormon religion is prejudiced against blacks, Jews and the Native American Indians," Dozier says in a release previewing the news conference. "These allegations are substantiated and validated by the writings of the former prophets and seers of the Mormon church."
What Dozier's release doesn't mention is that he's a supporter of rival Republican contender Rick Santorum, and, according to news reports, an honorary chairman of his Florida campaign. The Santorum campaign on Friday touted Dozier as one of its conservative leader endorsements.
Santorum spoke in January at Dozier's church, where the senior pastor noted that blacks will not vote for a Mormon because of the LDS faith's racial history. Up until 1978, the Utah-based religion barred blacks from its all-male priesthood.
Romney's campaign declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Santorum didn't return a request for comment.
Romney, the Republican front-runner, isn't likely to pay much attention to Dozier's comments and has previously said he would not distance himself from his Mormon faith even as he argued that he would not take orders from Salt Lake City should he be elected president.
"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough," Romney said during a major 2007 speech on his faith during his previous White House bid. "They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it."
Romney added that there may be some who charge that his Mormon faith may sink his Oval Office hopes, but that underestimates the American people's respect for faith.
"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world," Romney said at the time.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has fought back recently against talk that it condones racial discrimination.
"The church's position is clear we believe all people are God's children and are equal in his eyes and in the church," the church said in a statement Feb. 29. "We do not tolerate racism in any form."
As to the question of the now-discarded ban on blacks in the priesthood, the church said: "It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began but what is clear is that it ended decades ago."
In 2006, then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley rebuked Mormons who hold racist views.
"No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ," Hinckley said. "Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the church of Christ."
Dozier says his Monday news conference will include "other concerned clergy and other Christians."