WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential contenders Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann refused on Sunday to wade into a controversy over a Texas pastor's comments about rival Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.
"I am not running for theologian in chief," Cain, a former pizza executive who is rising fast in polls, said on CNN's "State of the Union" show when asked about the views of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress.
"I am not going to get into an analysis of Mormonism vs. Christianity. I'm not getting into that," said Cain, who said he was a lifelong Christian.
Jeffress, who backs Texas Governor Rick Perry in the 2012 presidential race, said at a conference of conservative voters on Friday that Mormons were a cult and were not Christians.
Jeffress, pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, introduced Perry at the conference. Perry, who is an evangelical Christian, rejected the comments by Jeffress and said he did not believe Mormons were a cult.
Bachmann, also a conservative Christian, called the controversy "inconsequential" and said jobs and the economy were the topics of concern to voters.
"We have religious tolerance in this country," said the congresswoman from Minnesota.
"I don't think that I'll be judged based on my faith as president of the United States, I think I'll be judged based upon the good ideas that I have to turn the economy around and have job creation."
(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Doina Chiacu)