MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has announced plans to deliver a major speech on faith later this week. Romney is expected to try to reassure voters about his Mormon faith. Among those who may have concerns, Christian conservatives who are a key voting bloc for the GOP.
My co-host, Michele Norris, is in Iowa. She talked with the minister at a conservative Christian church in Des Moines about the campaign with just a month to go before the caucuses.
Mike Rose is senior pastor at the First Federated Church, and so far, he's having a hard time finding a Republican to support.
Pastor MIKE ROSE (First Federated Church, Des Moines): I would say that it certainly makes it much easier when there's a clear-cut candidate. But, I guess, some of the things that I don't like is that I'm seeing a lot of the Republican candidates, in particular, moving more toward not the center but maybe even a little bit toward the left, in that they're adopting things that have been more traditionally part of the Democratic platform.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Now, you have a number of candidates who are traveling throughout Iowa and really the rest of the country, touting their conservative credentials.
Pastor ROSE: Yes. Mm-hmm.
NORRIS: But a number of them have things in their past, or, you know, part of their resume that it sounds like give your members of your congregation a bit to chew over. I'd like to ask you if I can about some of the individual candidates and the specific concerns that those in the religious right might have about them.
I'd like to begin with Mitt Romney. What are you hearing from members of your congregation about his Mormonism?
Pastor ROSE: Yes. You know, I probably have not heard a lot about his Mormonism from my congregation. But from the Christian community at large in Des Moines, and specifically from pastors more than congregants, there is that concern about his Mormonism.
NORRIS: What is their concern?
Pastor ROSE: Well, the concern, you know, I mean, I'm not out to bash someone else's faith system. But their concerns are that for years in the conservative church, Evangelical church, Mormonism has been looked at as more of a cult than as part of the Christian community. And so, you know, a lot of pastors have taught their congregations that.
Well, now, here comes Mitt Romney who, in many ways, represents the moral values that we hold dear, yet is a Mormon and, you know, pastors are saying, for example, after years of teaching that Mormonism is a cult, how do we go out now and say to our congregations, vote for a man who's a member of a cult but represents the moral values that we hold dear.
NORRIS: Mike Huckabee?
Pastor ROSE: Mike Huckabee, you know, is someone of interest to me because of his moral beliefs. And I know that he's an ordained minister. As a matter of fact, I've watched a couple of interviews in the last few days where he has been speaking, and I've liked a lot of what he's had to say.
I know that right now, I think, he's leading in the polls here in Iowa. So I think he's going to be a candidate of interest.
NORRIS: How important is the issue of abortion as sort of one of those lying in the sand issues for you?
Pastor ROSE: Well, it's very important - very important for myself, very important for the congregants of this church. You know, we believe very strongly that life begins at conception. And therefore, you know, this whole concept of abortion, we believe then is the taking of a legitimate life. And we do not believe that we have the right to make that decision.
Therefore, candidates who are going to support that become candidates that had becomes hard for us to support.
NORRIS: Now, there are candidates in the race among the Republican field who claim to have conservative credentials and yet have expressed support for abortion in the past.
Pastor ROSE: That is correct.
NORRIS: Mitt Romney…
Pastor ROSE: Yes.
NORRIS: Rudy Giuliani.
Pastor ROSE: Yes.
NORRIS: How do you deal with that?
Pastor ROSE: Well, again, those are people that are not going to necessarily be frontrunners for myself and I think for folks who would hold to the same values that we do. No matter how good their credentials are, that does become a sticking point.
NORRIS: What would it take for you and for the members of your congregation to look past that?
Pastor ROSE: I'm not sure that we can.
NORRIS: The line is that…
Pastor ROSE: I think it's pretty strong.
NORRIS: Strong, yeah.
Pastor ROSE: Again, you know, let's face it. If we wound up at election time next November with a candidate who, on both sides, that was pro-choice and pro-civil union or same-sex marriage, that would cause a lot of people to really have to dig down and decide, do I vote for the lesser of two evils as they may look at it, or do I just not vote at all.
NORRIS: Is it possible that not just here in Iowa but in adding to the general election that Christian conservatives might stay at home, might vote down ticket, but sit out the presidential contest?
Pastor ROSE: I think that is possible.
Pastor ROSE: I do think it's possible, yes. I don't agree with it, and I would not support that and I would encourage people not to do that. But I think that is possible because I have talked with people and have asked, you know, if this scenario was presented, what would you do? And they said, well, I just wouldn't participate.
NORRIS: Pastor Rose, thank you very much for talking with us.
Pastor ROSE: You're welcome.
NORRIS: Mike Rose is the pastor at First Federated Church in Des Moines, Iowa.
BLOCK: Tomorrow, Michele and our co-host, Robert Siegel, along with Steve Inskeep, will host a Democratic candidate debate live from Des Moines at 2 p.m., Eastern.
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