As I watched CNN's Election Night coverage last week, my GetReligion antenna immediately shot up when I heard the first part of Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio's victory speech:
Let me begin tonight by acknowledging a simple but profound truth. We are all children of a powerful and great God. Of a God who isn't always going to end -- things are not always going to end up the way you want them. His will is not always going to be yours.
But I promise you this. No matter what you face in life, he will give you the strength to go through it. I bear witness to that tonight as so many of you do in your own lives and must always be acknowledged in everything we do and everywhere we go.
As political junkies know, the Tea Party favorite with Cuban-American roots makes no secret of his faith. He's an avowed Roman Catholic (see his religious affiliation on his Florida House profile and on this CQ Politics candidate profile on Yahoo). A Catholic Advocate profile last February featured this headline:
Marco Rubio, A Catholic Candidate Who Will Not Compromise
RenewAmerica blogger Eric Giunta writes:
Mr. Rubio has long represented himself as a practicing Catholic, both at his once-official webpage at the Florida House and personally to a good friend of mine, who met him last year at a campaign stop in Tallahassee. I also know that the Catholic clergy of Tallahassee are under the impression Rubio was, and is, one of their own.
Apparently, the only thing not Catholic about Rubio is the church that he attends.
In the aftermath of Rubio's election, UK Telegraph religion journalist Damian Thompson created a stir, particularly among Catholic blog sites, by questioning Rubio's religious affiliation (first here and then here). In his first post, Thompson complained:
I assumed until this morning that Marco Rubio, the pro-life new senator-elect from Florida, was a Catholic. That's because I kept reading in articles that he was "a conservative Roman Catholic." Then I came across this curious article from Politics Daily which (without apparently realising that it is doing so) reveals that he has abandoned the faith of his Cuban parents:
Here are the pertinent parts of that Politics Daily item from just before the election:
What is Marco Rubio's religion?
Rubio is a Roman Catholic.
Where does Marco Rubio worship?
Though he is Catholic, Rubio belongs to the Christ Fellowship nondenominational Church in West Kendall, Fla., where he has attended for the last six years.
As Thompson noted, Rubio has not hidden the fact that he attends Christ Fellowship Church. The St. Petersburg Times reported in May that Rubio gave $66,000 to charity between 2000 and 2008, much of it going to Christ Fellowship Church. A profile of Rubio by the evangelical World magazine reported in August:
Rubio turned to faith and family when trying to determine whether he wanted to run for the right reasons. "For those who have the Christian faith and are in politics, there is a constant struggle between a desire to do what is right and how that sometimes may not coincide with what is popular," said Rubio, a Roman Catholic whose family has spent the last six years attending a Miami-area nondenominational church, Christ Fellowship. "I hope that, more often than not, I make the right choice."
Now about that non-denominational church. Sometimes, non-denominational means that a church is not affiliated with a denomination. Sometimes, though, non-denominational means that we live in a world where denominational labels turn off potential congregants.
In the case of Christ Fellowship, the West Kendall church's beliefs page includes this note at the top:
Christ Fellowship is aligned doctrinally and cooperatively in missions locally, nationally, and globally with the Southern Baptist Convention.
As you may be aware, the Southern Baptist Convention is a rather prominent denomination. (A bit off topic, but I remember writing about Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, a non-Baptist SBC church, during my time with The Associated Press in Dallas.)
Back to Rubio, a key question seems to be: Is Florida's Roman Catholic senator-elect really a Southern Baptist? A related question: Does this matter? One Catholic blogger said he liked a commenter who suggested:
"Get back to me when he claims to be a Christian but is actually a Muslim."
Still, one's religious affiliation does matter; voters have a right to know what informs the ideology and worldview of their elected leaders, and to take religious affiliation into account when determining who to give their vote to. There's also a question of honesty.
What are mainstream media reports saying about the brouhaha over Rubio's religious affiliation? So far, as best I can tell, nothing. Hmmmmm, it certainly sounds like news to me. If I've missed any relevant news reports, by all means, please share the links in the comments section.