5 faith facts about Rand Paul: ‘My faith has never been easy for me’

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U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) formally announces his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. Earlier on Tuesday, Paul initially announced his candidacy in a post on his website. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Sommers II
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RANDPAUL-FAITH, originally transmitted on April 7, 2015.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) formally announces his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. Earlier on Tuesday, Paul initially announced his candidacy in a post on his website. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Sommers II *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RANDPAUL-FAITH, originally transmitted on April 7, 2015.

UPDATE: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul withdrew from the 2016 race February 3.

(RNS) Sen. Randal Howard “Rand” Paul, the junior Republican from Kentucky, calls himself a “libertarian conservative.”

He also calls himself a Christian but once told the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit: “I struggle to understand man’s inhumanity to man. I struggle to understand the horrible tragedies that war inflicts on our young men and women.”

Here are five facts about Rand Paul:

RELATED STORYWhat do 2016 election contenders believe? Check the RNS ‘5 faith facts’ series

1. Like many Americans, he defies religious labeling.

Paul, 53, was baptized an Episcopalian. It didn’t stick. He attended Baylor University, a Baptist school in Texas, then Duke University. He now attends a Presbyterian church. In this, he is like most Americans — all over the map in terms of his religious affiliation.

2. And he got a little crazy in college, too.

At Baylor, Paul joined the NoZe Brotherhood, a secret and controversial society that routinely skewers the school’s Baptist roots and other aspects of undergraduate life. His association with the group came back to bite him in his initial run for the Senate after GQ magazine ran a story claiming NoZe was dedicated to “blasphemy,” and Paul, while high as a kite, helped kidnap a coed and forced her to pray to “Aqua Buddha,” a  made-up water idol. Paul threatened to sue the magazine.

Paul’s wife, Kelley, has served as a deacon in the couple’s Presbyterian church. In the wake of the Aqua Buddha accusations, she told the press, “Rand and I are both Christians and our faith is very important to us.”

3. Just call him Christian.

Paul revealed more on this in speeches at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit — an annual gathering of social conservatives considered necessary to winning the evangelical vote.

But his relationship with its members has been uneven, at least in terms of his faith. In 2012, he detailed his personal struggle with religion, saying: “My faith has never been easy for me, never been easy to talk about and never been without obstacles. I do not and cannot wear my religion on my sleeve. I am a Christian but not always a good one. I’m not completely free of doubts.”

4. His mentions of religion stepped up as he readied for the 2016 race.

Speaking at the same event one year later, he echoed evangelicalism’s belief in a “war” on Christianity: “From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity.” In February 2015, Paul appeared on televangelist Marcus Lamb’s Daystar television program and said he had been “saved” more than once.

At a private prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., in March 2015, Paul told his audience: “The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn’t say keep religion out of government. So, you do have a role and a place here.”

5. On the campaign trail …

The question of confronting the Islamic State group abroad and preventing terrorism at home has backed several candidates into extreme positions. Paul tried to avoid that when asked by the website ThinkProgress about increased anti-Muslim violence in the United States:

“He immediately pivoted to border security. ‘If we want to defend ourselves against a war on terror, we have to focus on the border,’ he said, before outlining broadly his terrorism strategy. Pressed further to specifically address violence against Muslims in America, he pivoted to Donald Trump. ‘It’s a mistake, as Trump has put forward, to have a religious test to have Muslims into the country,’ he said.”

Progessive humanists have accused Rand of making a run to the right by playing up his opposition to gay rights and abortion while still waving a libertarian flag.

At a GOP debate in December, Rand said censoring the Internet was no way to combat terrorism — one of the hottest issues for GOP contenders.

“If we ban certain religions, if we censor the Internet, I think that at that point the terrorists will have won. Regime change hasn’t won. Toppling secular dictators in the Middle East has only led to chaos and the rise of radical Islam,” Paul said.

” … As commander in chief I will do whatever it takes to defend America. But in defending America, we cannot lose what America stands for. Today is the Bill of Rights anniversary. I hope we will remember that and cherish that in the fight on terrorism.”

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for RNS; Cathy Lee Grossman contributed to this report)

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  • samuel johnston

    I like Rand Paul, but political leadership is not a good place to find yourself.
    Nor is it a place to have a serious discussion about religion. It is all too easy for the searchers (I include myself) to upset the believers.

  • This article is true in some points but the claim the Rand Paul is the only candidate on BOTH sides of some of your points seem quiye erronus.
    1. “Paul also seems to be the only candidate in either party who noticed how disastrous toppling Middle Eastern dictators has been thus far this century.” This is without a doubt false as Bernie Sanders has been very outspoken on this issue for quite some time.
    2. “Sadly, Paul’s desire to decriminalize marijuana not only sets him apart from the Republicans, it sets him apart from all presidential candidates in either major party.” Another false claim as Bernie Sanders from the start has been about ending the war on drugs. But he goes even further by supporting the legalization of marijuana. Sanders also wants to do massive prison reform, which is refreshing considering the reasons for such a large prison population is absurd.
    3. Most of the young voters are out in support for Bernie Sanders. So Rand Paul is going to get no support in…

  • David in East Texas

    ….which is tragic as Bernie Sanders stands for growing the State, in it’s invasive encroachement against our Lives & Liberty.

    By all means, if you think the State should own you, your income & your future, vote for Bernie Sanders, as he is the advocate for ‘Government bigger & more powerful than God’.

    Now, truth be told, so are most of the candidates on both sides, stumping for ‘Big Government’, it’s just the the GOP = endless war & Dems = endless Handouts.

    Taken together, both parties are actually ONE: they want to steal your life, liberty & property, under the guise of ‘caring for everyone’.

    This is rubbish, in my view.

    The ‘State = God’ is the polar opposite of the (Biblically inspired) quest for free Lives & Liberty to follow the vision of the Puritians & Pilgrims of the 13 Colonies.

    Even Rand Paul barely measures on this scale, but at least he respects these historical standards and the need for our Liberty to be secure & to stop building an…

  • Ezekiel Carsella

    Funny because Rand also wants massive criminal justice reform and has an A rating with the Marijuana Policy Project which is better than Bernie. http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/26/rand-paul-ranks-highest-in-marijuana-policy-presidential-voter-guide/

  • leon redgrave


  • disqus_IhAuU5izE9

    Except that Christians don’t maim or kill as part of their belief system. Small point you missed there, but yeah, good comment

  • Spuddie

    Except for the ones who shoot up Planned Parenthood clinics, burn crosses on the property of others, who think murdering gays is alright with God, and advocate a government based entirely on their religious belief (just like ISIS).

  • disqus_IhAuU5izE9

    And btw, “advocate a government based entirely on their religious belief”?? Really? I might mention that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values, a fact, like it or not; but I won’t get into that, bc right now the point I’d like to make is that contrary to what you said, we are simply fighting to be able to express our views (a right our gov’t stringently protects for Muslims) and maintain religious liberty for all, NOT asking gov’t to be “based entirely on [our] religious belief.”

  • disqus_IhAuU5izE9

    Exactly the reason I said “as part of their belief system.” People that do those things are not following Christian teaching, despite what they say. Nowhere in Christian teaching, or in the Bible, will you find anything advocating that behavior. ISIS, on the other hand, follows Islam, which at its heart, and as written in the Quran, advocates killing all who disagree with their teachings. To be a radical Islamist then, like ISIS members, is to kill. To be a radical Christian, is to be as Christ-like as possible, which is to love.
    Total opposites.
    What misguided people do in the name of Christianity, that goes against the principles of Christianity, is the fault of those people and cannot be attributed to true Christians or Christianity.
    What ISIS does however, goes right along with Islamic principles.

  • Arbustin

    It’s still based on their religious beliefs. The fact that it doesn’t jibe with what you view as “true Christian” doctrine doesn’t change that. We can point to plenty in the Bible and other Christian teachings that would seek to justify clinic bombings or murdering gays, just as you claim that violence “goes right along with Islamic principles.”

  • disqus_IhAuU5izE9

    It’s not about what I or anyone else considers”true Christian” doctrine. It is what it is. If they take that doctrine and twist it to suit their own warped mind and intentions, that’s on them. I am a Christian and I think what those people have done and still do is HORRIBLE. And our church teaches the same thing; Jesus would never advocate those bombings or hurting (or worse) homosexuals or anyone else. There is NOTHING in the Bible or Christian teaching that would advocate that stuff. Unless, again, you take passages out of context (as many do) and twist them for your own agenda. Nowhere does it say we should hurt or kill ANYONE; I’m sorry, you are flat out wrong. In fact, it teaches to love and pray for our enemies, not to seek revenge or force them to adopt our beliefs. If you have something against Christianity, that’s your right, but you cannot say it is something it is not just bc you don’t like it.
    Islam, in fact, DOES teach to make infidels submit to its beliefs. Or kill them in the name of Allah.
    Just bc not all Muslims subscribe to this doesn’t make Islam a peaceful religion, just as some so-called Christians killing in the name of Christ doesn’t make Christianity a religion of violence. In both cases, it is those individuals making it fit their own minds and into their own worldviews.
    Our faith is supposed to transform us, we are not supposed to transform it.

  • Arbustin

    I don’t have anything against Christianity, just against No True Scotsman arguments. Religion often manifests itself in individuals making their faith beliefs fit their own minds into their own worldviews. There is no “it is what it is,” it is what people say it is. Not always but often enough.

  • disqus_IhAuU5izE9

    Of course, ppl can make of it what they want, but then they aren’t really following the principles, are they? I mean, just as the law says it is illegal to kill a person, some maniac can say well, that doesn’t apply to gays. Ok, he/she can think that but it doesn’t change the law or make what they do acceptable in the eyes of the law.
    So yes, Christianity (or Islam or any religion for that matter) is what it is. We can’t change what Jesus taught and modeled. Can it be misinterpreted? Taken out of context? Of course, but that doesn’t change the heart of the teachings.
    My point was and is that when those ppl hurt or maim or bomb or bully in the name of Christ or Christianity, that is not representative of the heart and core teachings of Christianity. Those things are awful enough, but I cringe when God’s name is attached to them.