11 faith facts about GOP candidates who debated on CNN

(RNS) Despite Christian talk host Hugh Hewitt on the panel of questioners, the candidates far less 'God talk' than in the Fox News debate.

Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-FIORINA-FAITH, originally transmitted on April 28, 2015.
Republican presidential candidates (top row L-R) Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, (bottow row L-R) Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich are seen in a combo of recent file photos. The head of the Republican Party on Wednesday said its presidential candidates are unlikely to attack each other in the party's first official debate but instead are focused on ousting Democrats from the White House. Seventeen Republicans, led by billionaire Donald Trump, who has taunted fellow contenders, are seeking the conservative party's presidential nomination. Only 10 will be on stage Thursday night in the first prime-time debate, which could offer a boost in exposure to voters and a chance to break out of the pack. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/files *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POLITICS-FAITH, originally transmitted on August 5, 2015.

Ten Republican presidential candidates (top row L-R)  in the Fox News debate — Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, (bottow row L-R) Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich — will be joined by Carly Fiorina in the CNN debate. Photo composite courtesy of REUTERS/files

(RNS) Ten plus one Republican candidates took the main debate stage for a three-hour marathon of policy talk and intra-party digs on  Wednesday (Sept. 16).

It was 10+1 because all the fellows from the first debate, sponsored by Fox News, made room for Carly Fiorina on the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Few issues united the candidates and there was almost none of the “God talk” that peppered the August debate on Fox News.

Still, we at Religion News Service are keeping tabs. Here are links to our series of “5 faith facts about … ” each of these candidates’ background, written as they entered the race, and updates on their most recent spiritual spins on the campaign trail.

Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina responds to a question at a Fox-sponsored forum for lower polling candidates held before the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 6, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, shown here at the Fox News debate, will join the main-stage candidates for the CNN debate. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Ben Carson  and Donald Trump have tangled over the politics of religiosity.

Carson struck first, telling CNN, “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life and that’s a very big part of who I am. I don’t get that impression with (Trump).”

Trump tweeted back: “Wow, I am ahead of the field with Evangelicals (am so proud of this) and virtually every other group, and Ben Carson just took a swipe at me.”

Jeb Bush, courting Jewish votes, spoke at a synagogue and, according to the website Jewish Insider, the so-called “National Jewish Leadership Team” will comprise Jewish leaders and prominent donors.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also looking for Jewish voters, told an Orthodox Jewish audience in New Jersey that President Obama lacked the essential moral clarity to reject the Iran nuclear deal. 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, like nearly all the GOP contenders, backed defiant Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her religious refusal to sign off on marriage licenses for gay couples. 

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told CNN: “I think it’s absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty. If you want to convince people that same-sex ‘marriage’ is something that’s acceptable I would say try to persuade people” instead of using state force. I am a Christian but not always a good one.”

But few were more outspoken than Baptist pastor and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He was at the jailhouse rally when Davis was released after serving five days for contempt of a judge’s order to issue licenses to all eligible couples. 


“It’s what I call the criminalization of Christianity,” Huckabee told “Fox and Friends.”

Carly Fiorina stressed her “passion” for religious liberty, but pointed out that elected officials with conscience objections to their employment duties might consider resigning.

(Although the Bible she often reads says the meek shall inherit the earth, Fiorina had a smart little comeback to Trump’s sexist remarks about her face. Said Fiorina of Trump, “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”)

Ted Cruz, riding hard on the defund-Planned-Parenthood bandwagon among Republicans, announced a “Day of Prayer and Fasting” last week and called on 100,000 evangelical pastors to join in. No word yet on how widely they responded. 

Politico says Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is subtly leveraging his LDS background to build support in Nevada, where the Mormon community is small but influential in GOP politics. 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich rattled the religious right in a Fox News appearance when he took a pragmatic rather than dogmatic stance on the push against Planned Parenthood in Congress. He said: “When you shut the government down, people don’t like it. And you shouldn’t shut it down unless you have a great chance of success.” 


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