(CNSNews.com) - Politically active Christians who see Republican Mitt Romney as a potential champion for social conservatism in the 2008 presidential race should worry more about his consistency on key issues than about his Mormon religion, a Christian legal scholar said.
Romney, just finishing one term as governor of Massachusetts, filed papers Wednesday to set up an exploratory committee for an expected White House bid. He has been reaching out to social conservatives, touting his opposition to same-sex "marriage," abortion and judicial activism.
Some critics on right, however, contend that Romney has "flip-flopped" his position on highly charged public policy issues.
Their arguments should be carefully weighed by evangelicals and other conservative Christians, Prof. James Davids, an assistant dean at the law and government schools at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., told Cybercast News Service.
Davids pointed to a conservative Catholic blog, which claims that Romney in the past has held more permissive views on homosexual rights and abortion. He said the claims give Christians good reason for pause.
In a recent entry in the blog, Morley Institute for Church and Culture Director Deal W. Hudson argues that Romney's "late-life" conversion to a pro-life viewpoint should "raise eyebrows" among Catholics.
Hudson, a former editor of the Catholic monthly Crisis magazine, says "reams of evidence" made available through pro-family activists in Massachusetts "show how Romney's pro-gay actions as governor have not matched his conservative rhetoric."
Despite such concerns, Davids said he was keeping an open mind and encourages other evangelicals do to the same at these very early stages of the presidential campaign.
He credited Romney for showing leadership in combating the activism of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and in working to force a vote in the state legislature on allowing the public to have its say on same-sex "marriage" in a 2008 ballot measure.
"There can be redemption," Davids said, "There can be conversions, but one must always be skeptical."
Davids, who is also president-elect of the Christian Legal Society, said he did not see Romney's religious affiliation as a major obstacle to the Republican nomination, since Mormons and evangelicals tend to embrace similar views on important cultural matters.
Prior to joining Regent in 2003, Davids served as deputy director of the Justice Department's Task Force for the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. While serving in that capacity, he said he became acquainted with Mormons who were working in the Bush administration.
"I found myself on the same side as they were on, [on] virtually every issue," he said. "Evangelical Christians and Mormons look at the world very similarly."
The level of support Romney attracts from evangelicals and Catholics is more likely to rise or fall on the candidate's sincerity than it will on his Mormonism, Davids said.
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