POWDERSVILLE, S.C. (ABP) – The newly elected president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention says conservative voters in the state will have an easier time voting for a repentant adulterer than a Mormon.
Brad Atkins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Powdersville, S.C., told the online news platform Patch.com that questions about current Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich’s fidelity and his two failed marriages might be an obstacle for some voters. Others, he said, will prayerfully consider the former Speaker of the House’s numerous public confessions of his transgressions.
Atkins said Mitt Romney, a man married to the same woman for more than 40 years, will have a harder time appealing to voters taking to the polls Jan. 21 because of his Mormon faith.
"In South Carolina, Romney's Mormonism will be more of a cause of concern than Gingrich's infidelity," said Atkins, elected president of the convention of the state’s Southern Baptists in November. "Conservatives can process and pray their way through the issue of forgiveness toward a Christian that has had infidelity in their life, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves 'Christian.'"
Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Dec. 17 that three weeks ahead of the first primary elections Romney is “clearly the establishment candidate,” while Gingrich has “a trainload of baggage.”
Meanwhile, Land said three people — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -– “are splitting up what would be the pure, unadulterated, uncompromising conservative viewpoint.”
“If you took all of Perry’s support and you took all of Santorum’s support and you took all of Bachmann’s support, and you put it behind one candidate, they would be contending for the lead,” Land said on Richard Land Live.
He said the last poll he saw ranked Perry at 7 percent and Santorum and Bachmann at 5 percent each. Added up to 17 percent, he said, together they rank just below front-runners Gingrich, Romney and Ron Paul.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.