Bill Bennett took the stage a few minutes ago at the Values Voters Summit and blasted one of the previous day’s speakers, to the surprise of the crowd. Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress told the media yesterday that evangelicals had a duty to reject Mormons and other non-Christians, and that Mormonism is considered a cult. Bennett responded today by exhorting the crowd, “Do not give voice to bigotry.” Furthermore, Bennett addressed his comments to Jeffress directly, saying. “You did Perry no good, sir,” and accused him of stepping on the other candidates as well. Bennett then joked that, as a Catholic, he can argue that he had it right the longest, to plenty of good-natured laughter.
The crowd reacted with some gasps, plenty of murmurs to Bennett’s slam at Jeffress, but also a significant amount of applause. While some in the crowd might agree with Jeffress as a theological point, there seems to be a strong current of thought that Jeffress crossed a line yesterday, at least politically. Bennett might not have intended to demonstrate how much diversity of thought there is at the Values Voters Summit, but it certainly delivered that message.
Update: Jeffress is not the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, although he is a significant leader among Southern Baptists. The SBC president is Bryan Wright. Thanks to Luke G for the correction; I misunderstood Jeffress’ introduction yesterday, which listed him as an SBC “leader.”