- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2007

From combined dispatches

VIRGINIA BEACH — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wooed Christian conservatives yesterday, but passed up a chance to address their concerns about his Mormon roots.

In his commencement address at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, the former Massachusetts governor urged graduates to lead lives of service.

“America needs great Americans today perhaps more than ever,” Mr. Romney said, citing the Virginia Tech shootings and the specter of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden who are contemplating “another Holocaust.”

Mr. Robertson’s invitation for Mr. Romney to be the keynote speaker had upset some students, who posted negative messages on Regent’s internal electronic bulletin board and sent e-mails to faculty members and administrators.

A Republican presidential candidate himself in 1988 and founder of the Christian Coalition, Mr. Robertson asked Mr. Romney to speak because the former governor is a proven leader and “leadership is a primary force here,” school spokeswoman Judy Baker said.

Mr. Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network mentions Mormonism on its Web site on a page with the title, “How Do I Recognize a Cult?”

“The Mormon church is a prosperous, growing organization that has produced many people of exemplary character,” the site says. “But when it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth.”

Mr. Romney commended Mr. Robertson for building a center of learning grounded in faith and that his devotion is an inspiration. He said Regent was an example of Mr. Robertson’s dedication to strengthening the pillars of this country: education, fellowship and advancement.

Mr. Robertson, Regent’s chancellor, introduced Mr. Romney as a highly educated “person of great distinction.”

Although Mr. Romney mentioned faith and made some biblical references, he did not cite specific religions.

Founded in 1978, Regent has about 5,000 students. This year’s graduating class, with 1,005 students, is the school’s largest graduating class, Mr. Robertson noted.

A second Republican presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is Catholic, is to speak at Regent’s executive leadership program in June.

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