The religious journey of Marco Rubio has more twists than a pretzel. By his account, he was baptized a Roman Catholic, then baptized a Mormon, then got his parents to return to the Catholic Church and to enroll him in parochial school, from which he quickly withdrew — all before he turned 13.
Rubio now attends Catholic churches as well as an evangelical Protestant megachurch that his wife (whom he married in a Catholic ceremony) joined during a period when Rubio himself had drifted away from church.
Pope Francis’ first U.S. visit next month will focus attention on the 2016 presidential candidates’ religious backgrounds, many of which contain almost as many shifts as Rubio’s.
In this, the candidates reflect a big part of the nation they hope to lead, one characterized by looser religious loyalties and what a report this year by the Pew Research Center called “a remarkable degree of churn in the U.S. religious landscape.”
Candidates’ church switching is “a nice reflection of contemporary American religion,” says David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist and author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. “Voters recognize and accept it in the candidates, because they do it themselves or know people who have.”
The presidential field splits roughly into two groups: stickers and switchers.
The stickers, like a majority of Americans, still worship in the denomination in which they were raised. The switchers have changed denominations or faiths — sometimes, like Rubio, more than once.
• Jeb Bush was baptized an Episcopalian and attended Presbyterian and Episcopal churches as a boy in Texas. In 1995, two decades after marrying a Roman Catholic, he became one himself.
• Scott Walker traded his preacher-father’s relatively liberal mainline Protestant American Baptist affiliation for membership in a more conservative nondenominational evangelical megachurch.
• Rand Paul was baptized Episcopalian, attended a Baptist university (Baylor) and now goes to a Presbyterian church at home in Bowling Green, Ky.
• Bobby Jindal, born a Hindu, converted to Roman Catholicism while in college (to his parents’ dismay) and now calls himself “an evangelical Catholic.”
• John Kasich, who as a boy aspired to become a Roman Catholic priest, later drifted away from that church. He says that after his parents were killed in a car crash in 1987, he turned back to God. He now belongs to a church in Westerville, Ohio, that’s affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America. That denomination was founded in 2009 by former members of the U.S. Episcopal Church dissatisfied with its increasingly liberal tendencies, such as the election of a gay bishop.
• Carly Fiorina, raised an Episcopalian, has spoken of her “personal relationship” with God, but belongs to no particular denomination or church.
Stickers include candidates like Hillary Clinton, a Methodist since childhood; Martin O’Malley, who attended Catholic elementary school, high school and college, sent his kids to Catholic school and attends Mass daily; and Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist who became an ordained a minister in that denomination.
It’s hard to categorize Donald Trump. Although he was raised as a Presbyterian — his mother was born in heavily Presbyterian Scotland — he’s been associated as an adult with Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Marble Collegiate, part of the Reformed Church in America (once Dutch Reformed), was long the pulpit of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, author of the influential ’50s best-seller The Power of Positive Thinking.
Rubio is a category of his own. He’s what the Pew Center calls a “revert” – someone who leaves a childhood religion before returning to it later in life.
Rubio and the switchers aren’t aberrations. About a third of Americans have changed their religious affiliation from the tradition in which they were raised, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, which studies religion and politics.
If the three major Protestant traditions (evangelical, mainline and historically black) are treated as separate categories, then the share of Americans who have switched religions rises to 42%, according to a survey released in May by the Pew Center. And that doesn’t include Rubio and other reverts.
The switchers’ changing religious preferences haven’t fazed voters, but rather seem a familiar part of contemporary American society. “The American religious landscape is a fluid place,” says Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. “So the fluid religious biographies of the presidential candidates are familiar parts of life for many of their constituents.”
Read the full articles at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/08/31/2016-candidates-religion/32329555/