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Romney's Religion Raises Concerns Among Texas Evangelicals

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Like it or not, religion is likely to play politics if Mitt Romney is the Republican Presidential nominee. "It's definitely going to be a turn out to vote problem among Republican voters who are evangelical and religious-right Christians," according to UTA political science professor, Tom Marshall.

A Gallup Poll in June found that 22% of voters would not support a Mormon candidate for President. Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church, Dallas may be one of them. In his latest book, he wrote a chapter advising Christians on how they should vote. "Given the choice between a competent Christian and a competent non-Christian, we as Christians should choose a competent Christian," said Dr. Jeffress.

The outspoken pastor has publicly called the Mormon faith a cult. With Romney, a Mormon, on the verge of his party's nomination, Jeffress is not backing down."I stand by my comments that Mormonism is a theological cult, said Pastor Jeffress. "I've always been careful to clarify that Mormons are good, moral people, but they've never been a part of historic Christianity," he further explained.

Dr. Jeffress says that few people are likely to admit, publicly, that they will not vote for a Mormon. But he believes once inside the voting booth, many evangelical Christians will decide based on faith.

The religious right could soon find themselves in a conundrum; choosing between a moderate Mormon and a Democratic incumbent President. "Come November, we who are evangelical Christians may have to hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils."

Dr. Darrell Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary says political beliefs will ultimately win out. "It will be a hard choice between their religious convictions and their political ideology. I think in the end, political ideology will win out for a lot of people," said Dr. Bock.

History may be on Romney's side. John F. Kennedy faced the same criticism as a Catholic. Kennedy went on to win the 1960 Presidential election by the slimmest of margins.

Romney is also getting a boost from a recent poll among Texas voters.  The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, finds Romney in first place in Texas with 24%. Newt Gingrich is in second with 23% and Governor Rick Perry is in third place with 18%.

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