Bob Jones Dean Endorses … Romney!

By: Wall Street Journal

Michael M. Phillips reports on the presidential race.

A top official at Bob Jones University, the Evangelical Christian school with a history of anti-Mormon rhetoric, plans to throw his weight behind Mormon presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Robert R. Taylor, dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, said he believes the former Massachusetts governor is the only Republican candidate who both stands a chance of winning the White House and will reliably implement the anti-abortion, antigay marriage, pro-gun agenda of Christian conservatives. (See a related post on Romney.)

“The fact that I’m seen as a Religious Right person would hopefully get others to step out for him,” Taylor said in an interview in Greenville, S.C., the university’s hometown.

Taylor’s endorsement, which he said he plans to announce in the near future, marks a stunning move for such a high-placed academic at Bob Jones University. In 2000, Bob Jones III, then president of the university, wrote a public letter that referred to Mormonism and Catholicism as “cults which call themselves Christian.”

Taylor acknowledged that endorsing a Mormon for president risked alienating the university’s conservative donors and alumni. But, he said, “we’re not electing a pastor — we’re electing a president.”

At a Greenville Republican fund-raiser last week, one of Taylor’s former students, now a field operative for former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, told Taylor she was worried that his stance would divide the university and open the school up to outside criticism.

But Taylor isn’t impressed with Thompson’s performance on the campaign trail. “I just don’t see the energy there,” he said. Taylor argued that the socially moderate positions of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the national front-runner, are far out of sync with those of Christian conservatives.

During the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush drew sharp criticism for delivering a speech at Bob Jones University and failing to condemn its ban on interracial dating among students. The university lifted the prohibition shortly afterwards amid a rash of bad publicity.

UPDATED 10/16 at 5:35 p.m.: This afternoon, Bob Jones III, chancellor of the university, told the Greenville News that he, too, is endorsing Romney. “This is all about beating Hillary [Clinton],” Jones told the newspaper. “And I just believe that this man has the credentials both personally and ideologically in terms of his view about what American government should be to best represent the rank and file of conservative Americans,” he said. “If it turns out to be [Rudy] Giuliani and Hillary we’ve got two pro-choice candidates, and that would be a disaster.” Jones, when asked whether Romney’s Mormon faith was a problem for him, replied: “What is the alternative? Hillary’s lack of religion or an erroneous religion?”

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