Political Rally or Commencement Address?

Apparently, some of the students at Pat Robertson’s Regent University are none-too-pleased that Mitt Romney has been invited to deliver a commencement address:

Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University’s students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school’s bedrock evangelical Christianity.

“What we’re against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe,” said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent’s divinity school last year.

The controversy over Romney’s visit has bubbled for two weeks among students, spilling onto Regent’s internal electronic bulletin board, “The Branch.” Scores of e-mails on both sides of the debate have been posted, a student said.

Robertson is defending the invitation, though not necessarily Romney’s Mormonism:

“Gov. Romney is running for the post of Chief Executive Officer, not Chief Theologian,” Robertson stated. He said neither Romney nor Giuliani was expected to talk about his personal religious beliefs.

In the memo, Robertson said that having “people of note” as commencement speakers yielded publicity for Regent and a chance for students “to hear first-hand thinking from prominent individuals.

“I hope this answers some of the questions that have been raised about the choice of speakers at our school,” he added.

Mormons belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, which espouses some scripture, such as the Book of Mormon, and theology that departs from mainstream Christianity.

Some Christian groups, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson heads, are suspicious of Mormonism. CBN’s Web site discusses Mormonism on a page titled, “How Do I Recognize a Cult?”

“When it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth,” states the site, which adds that Mormon religious beliefs are, “to put it simply, wrong.”

But apparently not everyone is buying Robertson’s explanation:

Dowdey said he welcomed diverse viewpoints at Regent but that the university’s commencement should reflect the school’s distinctive religious values.

“If Pat wants to hold a political rally, well, hold one. Why not? Just don’t hold it at commencement,” Dowdey said.