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Influential evangelical defends Romney, but says Mormonism's not Christian

As controversy over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith continues to stir among conservatives and other candidates ahead of tomorrow night’s debate, some have questioned whether Mormons can be considered true Christians.

According to Richard Land, President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the answer is no.

“Most Evangelical Protestants and most conservative Catholics would say no, it is not,” Land told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, refuting the notion that Mormonism is a Christian faith. “It is another religion.  It does not have an orthodox view of the Trinity and the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ.”

He continued: “Perhaps the best way to look at Mormonism is it is the fourth Abrahamic religion. Joseph Smith playing the role of Muhammad, and the Book of Mormon playing the role of the Quran.”

That said, Land doesn’t think Romney’s religion should be a disqualification for political office nor affect his ability to be president, comparing the controversy over Romney’s Mormonism with the controversy that once surrounded President John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism.

Land said, in 2007, the last time Romney was running for president, he encouraged Romney to review one of Kennedy’s speeches and give his own version of it at Texas A&M.

“[Romney said] the same thing that Kennedy did, which was that his Mormon faith, the authority in his Mormon faith extended over his personal religious belief, and his family, and would have nothing to do with his performance of his office,” Land contended.

“Note, Kennedy didn't defend Catholicism,” Land said. “He defended the right to be Catholic and run for president. That's what he did.”

So, what would Land say to Evangelicals that are more doubtful?

“I would say to them that look, we voted for an Evangelical just because he was an Evangelical once and that didn't work out well in Jimmy Carter,” Land said.  “We're not looking for somebody applying for church membership. We are looking for someone that wants to be President of the United States.”