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Romney says aides wary of faith speech

HOLDERNESS, N.H. – Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said Saturday his political advisers have warned him against giving a speech explaining his Mormon faith.

During a house party overlooking Squam Lake, Romney was asked by voters if he would give a speech outlining his religious beliefs and how those beliefs might impact his administration, much like then-Sen. John F. Kennedy did as he sought to explain his Catholic faith during the 1960 election.

“I’m happy to answer any questions people have about my faith and do so pretty regularly,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “Is there going to be a special speech? Perhaps, at some point. I sort of like the idea myself. The political advisers tell me no, no, no – it’s not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone.”

Romney’s Mormon faith has been an issue in his presidential bid, especially with the conservative evangelicals who are central to his strategy to position himself as the candidate of the GOP’s family values voters.

In a Pew Research Center poll in September, a quarter of all Republicans – including 36 percent of white evangelical Protestants – said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon.

One voter at the house party addressed Romney as “bishop.”

“Governor Romney is a bishop and former stake president,” said Miriam Case, a voter from Campton, N.H. “He is a man of integrity.”

Romney interrupted: “You must be a Mormon. She’s got the Mormon lingo here.” A stake is a collection of Mormon congregations.

Case said after the event she doesn’t believe it’s fair Romney gets questions about his religion at all.

“I’m shocked actually. I’ve been a member of the church for 42 years. I didn’t realize there was so much bigotry left,” Case said. “I’m half-Jewish. I knew there was bigotry against Jews, but I didn’t realize there was bigotry against Latter-day Saints.”