Romney Defends His Religion

In remarks he didn't know were being recorded by a DV camera, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heatedly defended his religion during commercial breaks of an interview with conservative talk radio host Jan Mickelson at WHO 1040 in Iowa.

The video was posted on YouTube and can be watched HERE.

During the broadcast, Mickelson quizzed Romney about how his Mormon faith squares with his political beliefs. Romney is attempting to become the first Mormon to be elected president, and in competing for the Republican presidential nomination is trying to appeal to conservative evangelical Christians, some of whom see the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a cult.

Mickelson, a conservative talk radio host, wasn't impugning Mormonism, however. He was trying to say that if Romney sold himself as more closely aligned with the Church of Latter Day Saints he might assuage any suspicions conservative Iowa voters have about his candidacy, since Romney has held more liberal positions on social issues such as abortion and gay rights in the past. The on-air debate got heated, and off-air it was even more so.

Mickelson posted the video of his exchange Friday, drawing protests from the Romney campaign.

"We first expressed concern because we thought it was off-mike and off the record," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told ABC News. "But once we reviewed his entire tape we decided to put it on our own site."

Madden said the interview showed "Mitt Romney at his finest. It was Gov. Romney unplugged. It showed him to be very confident, very engaging and very passionate when faced with a very tough inquiry."

The Interview

During the official interview, Mickelson brought up Romney's faith almost immediately. "If you encourage an abortion in any way, you may be subject to church discipline," Mickelson said on-air, alluding to the Church of Latter Day Saints' rules and trying to understand how Romney could have functionally governed as an abortion rights supporter.

"The great thing about this country is that individuals who run for secular office are not implementing the policies of their church," Romney said. "I'm not going to have a conversation about what my church views are, because that's --"

"Why not?" interrupted Mickelson.

"Because that's not the nature of the office I'm running for," Romney said.

But Mickelson kept pushing.

"There are people in my church who are pro-choice. That is not against my church's view to allow people to have their own position on political positions," Romney said.

"That's not what [Mormon church doctrine] says," Mickelson replied.

"You happen to be incorrect on that," Romney shot back.

Mickelson then took a commercial break -- with the DV camera running, unbeknown to Romney, according to his campaign.

"This is only my opinion, off the air," Mickelson started. "I think you are making a biiiiig mistake by distancing yourself from your faith."

"I'm not distancing myself from my faith," Romney said. "There are Mormons in the leadership of my church who are pro-choice."

Off-Air Remarks

Romney then went on to explain different practices banned by the Mormon church that he would never act on legislatively.

"My church says I can't drink alcohol, right? OK, should I say, as governor of Massachusetts, we are stopping alcohol sales? No. My religion is for me and how I live my life. So don't confuse what I do, as a member of my faith, with what I think ought to be done by government."

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