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Pastor backing Perry: Romney not a Christian

The Texas pastor who introduced Gov. Rick Perry at Friday's Values Voters Summit in Washington told reporters that he does not believe that former Massachusetts Mitt Romney is a Christian, and called Romney's Mormon faith a "cult."

"Well, Rick Perry's a Christian. He's an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ," Dr. Robert Jeffress told NBC News. "Mitt Romney's a good moral person but he's not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity. So it's the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian."

Perry's campaign quickly distanced itself from the words of the pastor. The Texas governor, according to campaign spokesman Mark Miner, does not believe Mormonism is a cult.

"The governor doesn't get into the business of judging other peoples hearts or souls. He leaves that to God," Miner said in an email. "The governor's campaign is about uniting Americans of all backgrounds behind a pro-growth, jobs agenda for this country."

Romney's Mormon faith had been more of an issue in his 2008 bid for the GOP nomination, when he took major strides to overcome social conservatives and evangelical voters' suspicions about his faith. He delivered a major speech in December of 2007 seeking to allay their concerns, but still went on to lose the Iowa caucuses and subsequent New Hampshire primary, where he had competed.

The issue of controversial pastors in a candidate's background aren't entirely foreign to presidential campaigns, either. President Obama, during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, was forced to address and ultimately disavow his relationship with the controversial Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Jeffress introduced Perry to socially conservative conference-goers with an emphasis on Perry's evangelical Christian background. But he also raised eyebrows during his introduction of Perry, when he seemed to imply that Romney wasn''t a Christian.

"Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person, or one who is a born again follower of our Lord Jesus Christ?" he asked.

Jeffress is the pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas. The author of 17 books, according to the church's website, Jeffress is an occasional guest on cable news shows.

***Update*** Miner tells NBC News via email that the Perry camp did not plan Jeffress' endorsement/ introduction at the Values Voter Summit, which the campaign calls "not a political event." He says that the event organizers planned Jeffress' introduction of the governor.

Representatives of Jeffress' church dropped off statements at the press tables before Perry's speech announcing the endorsement -- not on Perry stationary.