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Religion plays front and center in presidential campaign

By Lauren Callahan

(KLTV) - A controversy began when Dallas pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress introduced Rick Perry last week at a values voters summit as a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

He also called Mormonism a "cult."

"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," said Dr. Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

But are voters looking solely at a candidate's religious beliefs when they decide who to vote for?

"I probably would give first consideration to somebody who was overtly Christian, but I don't know that I would select a candidate solely on that basis," said George Willingham of Tyler.

"It matters in my personal opinion of the person, but as far as a candidate you know, the basis of freedom of religion dictates to me that it shouldn't be a deciding factor in choosing a candidate," said Billy Lawson of Van.

Local children's minister Teresa Ator says her church doesn't endorse one candidate over another based on religious beliefs.

"I think the church as a whole is made up of the body of different people and so we as the leadership of Grace Community Church don't endorse a certain party or candidate," said Ator.

Smith County Republican Chair Ashton Oravetz says religion is only part of the bigger picture.

"It's not about religion, it's about character. And religion is just a part of what you're looking for in a politician. Religion tells you something about character, what religion they are," he said.

As for Jeffress, he later amended his remarks.

"Given the choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I would vote for Mitt Romney. I think it is much better for those who are evangelical Christians to have a non-Christian who embraces biblical values in the White House than to have a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces and addresses non-Biblical positions."

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