At a recent convention of religious conservatives, Pastor Robert Jeffress used his introduction of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry as an opportunity to attack rival candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.

At the convention—the Value Voters Summit held a few weeks ago—Jeffress did not hold back on expressing his distaste for the Mormon Church. He called the faith "a cult" and later added "it is only faith in Jesus Christ...that qualifies you as a Christian...[Mormons] have never been be part of the Christian family."

There is no problem with a preacher discussing his religious views, but there is a problem with what Jeffress said.

First, to state that Mormons don't have faith in Jesus is simply incorrect: the website of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints says that "Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer."

The larger problem, though, is that Jeffress made those statements at a political event. Jeffress was introducing a political candidate, and his comments denouncing Mormonism were an obvious attack on Perry's political rival Mitt Romney.

Perry, himself, did not take blatant shots at Romney or Mormonism, but he did say that Jeffress "knocked it out of the park" with his introduction.

Most problematic was Perry's passive aggression.

In later interviews, when asked if he thought Mormonism is a cult, he replied "no." When asked whether or not he considered Mitt Romney to be a Christian, Perry answered: "I already answered that question."

Religion is important and essential to America; that cannot be denied. America is a country based upon religious freedom, tolerance and diversity: the original settlers came to America largely to escape an established church and practice religion freely. We all know that our currency says, "In God we trust" and our pledge states "One nation under God."

The ecclesiastic identity of America, though, is that while we are a religious country, we don't exclude religions or sects that are not mainstream.

The United States is a country under god, but not under one specific view or interpretation of god.

Religious diversity is central to America, and, equally as vital, is our concept of the separation of church and state. We have no established, national church, and moreover, our leader has no religious role.

It is certainly intriguing (and perhaps alarming) that we have only had one non-Protestant president. For a position with nothing intrinsically religious about it, religion has clearly been a major factor in the selection of presidents.

John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, is the only non-Protestant to assume the presidency. Fifty years later, religion is still a factor: it is disappointing that a major stumbling point in Romney's candidacy might simply be his Mormon faith.

It is not acceptable to publicly castigate a candidate's religious beliefs in a political forum. Certainly we would be up in arms if someone publicly denounced another candidate based on their race or religion if it was a Protestant denomination of Christianity.

The United States needs to reevaluate its own views on the relationship between religion and politics.

Many of us are quick to criticize other nations for tying together church and state and impressing religious ideals into law, but we, as a nation, seem to have trouble separating religious ideals and biases from our own politics.

The presidency is a secular position: religion should not matter as long as it does not negatively affect the candidate's nonreligious life.

One of Perry's main campaign stances, and a main talking point at the Value Voters Summit, is the importance of family and family values.

Well, Mitt Romney has a wife of 42 years and has raised five children—so, in terms of "family values," does it really matter that he's Mormon?

Ted Romney is a member of the Class of 2015. He is not related to the Mitt Romney.