Image: Mitt Romney
Jim Cole  /  AP
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney reaches out for a handshake during a campaign stop Saturday at the Town Hall in Hopkinton, N.H.
updated 11/11/2007 12:02:22 AM ET 2007-11-11T05:02:22

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said Saturday his political advisers have warned him against giving a speech explaining his Mormon faith.

During a house party overlooking Squam Lake, Romney was asked by voters if he would give a speech outling his religious beliefs and how those beliefs might impact his administration, much like then-Sen. John F. Kennedy did as he sought to explain his Catholic faith during the 1960 election.

"I'm happy to answer any questions people have about my faith and do so pretty regularly," the former Massachusetts governor said. "Is there going to be a special speech? Perhaps, at some point. I sort of like the idea myself. The political advisers tell me no, no, no -- it's not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone."

Romney's Mormon faith has been an issue in his presidential bid, especially with the conservative evangelicals who are central to his strategy to position himself as the candidate of the GOP's family values voters.

In a Pew Research Center poll in September, a quarter of all Republicans -- including 36 percent of white evangelical Protestants -- said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon.

One voter at the house party addressed Romney as "bishop."

"Governor Romney is a bishop and former stake president," said Miriam Case, a voter from Campton, N.H. "He is a man of integrity."

Romney interrupted: "You must be a Mormon. She's got the Mormon lingo here." A stake is a collection of Mormon congregations.

Case said after the event she doesn't believe it's fair Romney gets questions about his religion at all.

"I'm shocked actually. I've been a member of the church for 42 years. I didn't realize there was so much bigotry left," Case said. "I'm half-Jewish. I knew there was bigotry against Jews, but I didn't realize there was bigotry against Latter Day Saints."

During the house party, Romney returned to a familiar speech about his family to talk about his faith's broad beliefs.

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Still undecided
"The values of my faith flow from the Judeo-Christian heritage that we probably all share in this room, which are values of believing in God, in the case of those that follow the Christian line of that philosophy, I believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe in the Bible. I believe that liberty is a gift of God and not of government. I believe in serving other people, that it's part of a religious heritage."

Even so, Romney said that he hasn't yet decided whether to give a major speech on his faith.

"Until that time, you'll have to rely on what you just heard," he said to applause.

At a later town hall-style meeting in Laconia, N.H., Romney made a joke about his religion's former practice of polygamy.

"I love my wife and my five sons and their five wives," he said to laughter. "Wait. No. I said that wrong."

Swipe from McCain's mother
Questions about Romney's Mormon faith have dogged him during the primary campaign. Just Friday, Sen. John McCain's 95-year-old mother took a swipe at Romney's faith and said Mormons were to blame for the scandal that rocked the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

"As far as the Salt Lake City thing, he's a Mormon and the Mormons of Salt Lake City had caused that scandal. And to clean that up, again, it's not a subject," Roberta McCain said on MSNBC on Friday.

McCain quickly distanced himself from the comments, and said both he and his mother have no issues with Mormons.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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