5 faith facts about Mike Pence: A ‘born-again, evangelical Catholic’

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wave to the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Ind., on July 12, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Sommers II

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wave to the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Ind., on July 12, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/John Sommers II

(RNS) Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will be presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate.

Trump made it official Friday (July 15) — fittingly, in a tweet.

Pence became governor of the Hoosier State in 2013. Previously, he had worked as a lawyer, president of the Indiana Policy Review, political talk radio show host and U.S. congressman.

He has described himself as a “pretty ordinary Christian” and as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

But he also once said, “I made a commitment to Christ. I’m a born-again, evangelical Catholic.” That’s not a combination you hear every day, as journalist Craig Fehrman, who has covered the Indiana governor for Indiana Monthly, has pointed out.

Here are five faith facts about Pence and how his unusual faith mix has shaped him as a politician.

1. He was raised Catholic and later attended an evangelical megachurch.

Growing up in an Irish Catholic family that reportedly revered the Kennedys, Pence served as an altar boy and went to parochial school in Columbus, Ind., according to Fehrman.

Pence has said he made that “commitment to Christ” while taking part in a nondenominational Christian student group in college, according to the journalist. Pence had told The Indianapolis Star that he and his family attended Grace Evangelical Church in the 1990s, but by 2013, he told Fehrman they were “kind of looking for a church.”

2. He supported causes important to evangelicals as a congressman.

As a member of the U.S. House from 2000 until his election as governor, Pence had a  “reputation as a culture warrior (that) was unsullied,” according to Roll Call. The website lists his bona fides: He opposed the expansion of abortion rights and federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, pushed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage and briefly cut off new federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

3. He clashed with the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis over refugees.

Late last year, Pence clashed with the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis when he halted state support for efforts to relocate refugees, citing security concerns.

The archdiocese defied him by welcoming a Syrian family to the city anyway. In the end, the governor said that while he disagreed with the archdiocese’s action, he would not block food stamps and other state aid for the family.

On the other hand, he came out against Trump’s plan to halt all Muslim immigration to the U.S., tweeting last December that “calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.”

4. He supports Israel.

Pundits have said one reason Trump may pick Pence is that the governor’s strong pro-Israel sentiment would shore up Trump’s shaky relationship with Jewish voters. Speaking before AIPAC in 2009, then-Rep. Pence linked his support for Israel with his faith:

“Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.”

He backed that up last December at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference when he said: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies, Israel’s cause is our cause. If this world knows nothing else, let it know this: America stands with Israel.”

5. He signed Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law.

Last year, Pence found himself at the center of a storm when he supported Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses and individuals to refuse to do business with some people based on their own religious beliefs. In his 2016 State of the State address, he added:

“I will not support any bill that diminished the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work. … No one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.”

His stance on the issue made him the darling of evangelicals and other conservatives, and he signed the bill into law in March. But a week later, he had to sign a revised version after major corporations, organizations and celebrities vowed to boycott Indiana.

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