UPDATE: Former Gov. George Pataki withdrew from the 2016 race on December 29
(RNS) George Pataki, who served three terms as the Republican governor of New York and hinted that he might run for president four and eight years ago, finally declared his candidacy Thursday (May 28).
Pataki is Roman Catholic but has frequently taken stances that conflict with Catholic teaching. He supports abortion rights and tried to restore the death penalty in New York state. He doesn’t often invoke his faith and has selectively highlighted his Catholicism when advantageous. Here are five faith facts about the married father of four.
1. He hated Indiana’s religious freedom law.
Pataki highlighted his opposition to Indiana’s recently enacted and redacted religious freedom law — widely criticized as anti-gay — as distinct from other GOP presidential candidates, who voiced support for the law or shied away from the controversy.
“I was the only one that was critical,” he said, according to New Hampshire public radio. And though other Republican contenders later voiced some misgivings about the law, Pataki said it should obviously have been rejected from the start. “You shouldn’t have to do a poll. This is America and we want to treat people as equals and to me it’s that simple.”
2. He supports abortion rights but …
Pataki is unusual among GOP contenders in favoring abortion rights. He has chastised other Republicans for focusing on the issue, which he has called a “distraction.” He has also signed legislation as governor that mandated that insurers provide contraceptive coverage for women.
But neither is he a hero to the abortion rights movement. As governor and as a state legislator, he supported parental notification laws for minors seeking abortions, a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion and cuts to Medicaid funding for abortions.
3. He opposed a mosque near Ground Zero.
“I think it’s terribly wrong,” Pataki said of plans to build a mosque a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center after 9/11. “I just don’t understand why people who are supposedly building a mosque to talk about tolerance and interfaith understanding could be so un-understanding of the feelings of those of us who were there on Sept. 11,” he told Newsmax TV.
He continued: “It’s not about religious freedom, it’s about putting a facility that is inappropriate so close to Ground Zero,” he said. “This is not about being anti-Muslim.”
4. He defended George W. Bush after his Bob Jones University appearance.
In the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush visited Bob Jones University, whose president had called Catholicism ”the religion of the Antichrist and a satanic system.” Pataki — a Bush supporter — said he would have discouraged the visit had he known about it, but he came to Bush’s defense, describing him as a tolerant man.
5. He carries a Jewish good-luck charm.
Pataki carries a dollar bill signed by the late Lubavitcher Grand Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, according to The New York Times.
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