Credit: Bloomberg/Scott Eells

Attacking a presidential candidate's religion is intolerant and bigoted, and it's not enough for the candidates themselves to avoid it. They should denounce such behavior wherever it appears.

The issue came to the fore last week at a conference of Christian conservatives. Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, after introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a "genuine follower of Jesus Christ," told reporters Mitt Romney "is not a Christian" and the Mormon church, to which Romney belongs, is a cult.

Asked later, Perry said he doesn't believe Mormonism is a cult -- but he wouldn't condemn Jeffress' comments.

Some experts believe the Mormonism of front-runner Romney and rival Jon Huntsman, a former governor of Utah and ambassador to China, is a major issue in the hunt for the Republican presidential nomination. Two of the early states in the primary process, Iowa and South Carolina, include large contingents of evangelical Christians, some of whom are wary of Mormonism.

Those voters are Perry's base, which means he has an opportunity to show he is of presidential caliber here. He should use the bully pulpit of his campaign to make it clear that slurring the faith of other candidates is wrong.

Both Romney and Huntsman have well-documented track records in public service and business. Their actions in those realms are fair game.

Their religion, in this day and age, shouldn't be. hN


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