Jeb Bush (62): The former governor of Florida is certainly among the more well-known candidates in the crowded Republican field.
Bush was raised in the Episcopal Church, but converted to his wife Columba’s Catholic faith in 1994. In a speech in Italy in 2009 he said (according to the New York Times): “I love the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, the fact that the catholic Church believes in, and acts on, absolute truth as its foundational principle and doesn’t move with the tides of modern times, as my former religion did.” He described his conversion as “one of the most important times of my life” when speaking at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference earlier this year.
This was one of a number of speeches to Christian audiences in recent months in which he has addressed the need to protect the right to religious liberty and Christian conscience. “There’s no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action. And today in America it is important to respect and protect Christians acting on their faith,” he told the audience of Latino pastors.
Speaking at Liberty University’s commencement in May he said that although some may think that Christianity is “static, narrow, and outdated,” Christians can choose how they respond. “We can take this as unfair criticism, as it typically is, or we can take it as further challenge to show in our lives the most dynamic, inclusive, and joyful message that ever came into the world.”
He has described his personal faith as “the architecture that gives me the serenity I need, not just as a public leader or in life. It gives me peace. It allows me to have a closer relationship with my creator.” Bush attends the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, Florida with his family. In 2006 he said that he carries rosary beads around in his pocket, saying that “it gives me comfort”.
In keeping with Catholic beliefs Bush is pro-life and promoted a ban on late term abortions while he was governor. But he differs from the Church in his view on capital punishment; during his term (1999-2007) the state executed 21 people, more than under any of the three previous governors after the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976.
He told CBN’s The Brody File last month that he shared Christian conservatives’ concerns about same-sex marriage and doesn’t think there should be a constitutional right for same-sex marriage, adding that “we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.”
Speaking more generally about the state of American morality he said: “I don’t think that we can impose a spiritual awakening from Washington DC by passing a law… but we have the crumbling of our moral foundation of our country that is quite disturbing.”