The Corner

Rick Perry’s Pastor Problem

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, is calling on Rick Perry to formally distance himself from Robert Jeffress.

Jeffress, of course, is the pastor who introduced Governor Perry at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, who did Perry no favors, as Bill Bennett put it the next day, when he derided Mitt Romney’s religion.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not only Mormons Pastor Jeffress has problems with. As Donahue points out:

Last year, Rev. Jeffress said the Roman Catholic Church was the outgrowth of a “corruption” called the “Babylonian mystery.” He continued, “Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn’t come from God’s word. It comes from that cult-like pagan religion. Isn’t that the genius of Satan?”

Donahue asks:

Where did they find this guy? When theological differences are demonized by the faithful of any religion—never mind by a clergyman—it makes a mockery of their own religion. Rev. Jeffress is a poster boy for hatred, not Christianity.

Perry should follow John McCain’s lead here. As Wayne Barrett explains:

A powerful Catholic voice based in the New York Archdiocese, Donohue’s denunciations of another controversial Texas evangelical—Pastor John Hagee—as an anti-Catholic bigot forced 2008 GOP nominee John McCain to reject Hagee’s endorsement. (Hagee had called the church “the great whore” and a “false cult.”) “I think Rick Perry should follow the lead of McCain,” Donohue said in an interview on Wednesday, “and say ‘I don’t want this guy Jeffress’ endorsement.’” Donohue later reconciled with Hagee, who Donohue says came to visit him and apologized for the comments.

I previously concluded Rick Perry didn’t have a Catholic problem — certainly not for reasons Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has raised. Now he does. He’d be wise to take Donahue’s advice.

Unless he’s going for the divider slot.

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