WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush talked about his faith and decision to convert to Catholicism less than one week into his official campaign for president. Speaking before the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference’s conservative crowd Friday, the Republican candidate argued that his faith compels him to be concerned about the most vulnerable in the population -- arguing that led him to make several changes while governor of Florida.
Bush, who is running for president in 2016, made his faith the central part of his pitch to a room of conservatives -- who have overwhelmingly been apprehensive about his candidacy. Bush has struggled to get conservatives on board with his candidacy, who see him as too moderate. But Bush was willing to make the case to the crowd by talking about his own religious conversion.
Bush, like the rest of his family, was raised an Episcopalian. But his wife, Columba Bush, who grew up in Mexico, is Catholic. Bush, who married Columba in 1974, said he didn’t convert right away. It wasn’t until after he lost his first gubernatorial campaign in 1994 that he did so.
“I converted to the Catholic Church ... because I believe in the blessed sacraments and they give me great comfort,” Bush said. “It’s been an organizing part of my architecture as a person and certainly as an elected official.”
Bush said when he’s asked about whether religion plays a role in his decisions as an elected official, he always explains that it does. “They ask if whether you allow your decisions in government to be influenced by your faith. And whenever I hear this, I know typically the answer they want to hear is, ‘no, never, of course no, I would never do that,’ because in the game of political correctness, that’s the answer that gets you to the next level,” Bush said. “The end point is a certain kind of politician that we’ve all heard before, the guy whose moral convictions are so private, so deeply personal that he refuses to even impose them on himself. Well, that’s not me.”
Bush also addressed the issue of gay marriage. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether same-sex marriage should be legal across the country. Bush has appeared to fluctuate on whether the court’s ruling should be fought. Initially, Bush said a ruling in Florida should stand, but he has taken a more aggressive stance and affirmed his opposition to gay marriage.
“In a country like ours, we should recognize the power of a man and a woman loving their children with all their soul as a good thing, as something positive and helpful for those children to live successful lives,” Bush said. “And while there are people who disagree with this, we should not push aside those who do believe in traditional marriage. I for one believe it’s important and I think it’s got to be important over the long haul, irrespective of what the courts say.”