At the Values Voter Summit in D.C. over the weekend Baptist minister Robert Jeffress called Mormonism a “cult,” causing the biggest explosion of questions about Mitt Romney‘s faith so far this presidential cycle. Jeffress supports Rick Perry for the Republican nomination, and Romney responded by saying, “Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause.”
POLITICO Arena: How much, if at all, will questions about Romney’s faith hurt his candidacy?
BENJAMIN:  Will this attack on Mitt Romney’s faith help him? I think so because it puts the question and the prejudice squarely in the public eye. Undoubtedly, the first question at tomorrow’s GOP debate will be “Is Mormonism a cult and are Romney and Huntsman qualified to be president?” Each of the GOP candidates will have their “Sistah Souljah” or “Rev. Wright” moment. But thus far, they have failed to forthrightly denounce religious intolerance and prejudice.
Gov. Perry has a particular problem since the question was raised by a

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fellow Texan and supporter and comes on the heels of revelations about his Niggerhead Rock hunting lodge. Perry’s presidential ambition is being slowly poisoned by both of these toxic issues. He can’t whitewash Rev. Jeffress’ remarks as easily as a rock on property he leased. If his campaign is going to survive, he needs an anti-toxin. Stat!
The man who claims that his “heart” led him to order mandatory HVP vaccinations of 11 year old girls and to offer in-state tuition to the college-age illegal immigrants, must summon the heart to rebuke his friend, religious intolerance and racism. Gov. Perry needs to apologize for and completely rebuke the code words he has used to tell an unsavory ilk that he is one of them.
Furthermore, this is an opportunity for all of the Republican presidential candidates, including Herman Cain, to rebuke and turn away from the ugly elements – states’ rights, birthers, nativists, tea party — that have found a voice in the Republican Party. If they do so, all of America will be helped.