POLITICS

Kirsten Gillibrand: The GOP Is Not Driven By Faith

The 2020 candidate, a Catholic, said the Republican Party's policies don't line up with the Gospel's commands to serve the poor and the sick.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) isn’t convinced that the Republican Party, which has long claimed to be the standard bearer for faith and family values, is really a “faith-driven” party.

The 2020 presidential candidate, who identifies as Catholic, claimed that many of the GOP’s policy positions contradict her beliefs of what it really means to be Christian.

“I don’t think the Republican Party is a faith-driven party. I really don’t,” Gillibrand said an interview with NPR published Wednesday. “I think when they don’t feed the poor and don’t vote for food stamps, when they don’t care about families struggling and living in poverty, when they continue to invest in for-profit prisons, they aren’t doing what the Gospel tells them to do: feed the poor, help the sick.”

Gillibrand’s remarks reflect principles that are integral to Catholic social teaching, which instructs followers to care for the poor and recognize the inherent dignity of every human life.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to local residents at a coffee shop, Saturday, May 25, 2019,
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to local residents at a coffee shop, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in Mason City, Iowa. 

However, Gillibrand told NPR that she does disagree with the Catholic Church’s official doctrine on some key issues, such as abortion and LGBTQ rights. Earlier this month, Gillibrand spoke out against recent Republican attempts to pass anti-abortion laws across the country ― contending that laws restricting abortion are “against Christian faith.”

The senator also said she believes women should be ordained in the Catholic church and that priests should be allowed to marry. 

“I think the Catholic Church can be wrong on many things,” Gillibrand said. 

While the American Catholic Church has staunchly conservative views about abortion and same-sex marriages, Catholics in the pews are more divided. Catholics are split about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. About 48% agree that the case was decided correctly by the Supreme Court and should be upheld, and 40% said it was the wrong decision and should be overturned, according to a 2018 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute

American Catholics’ views on LGBTQ rights are clearer ― 66% of white Catholics and 65% of Hispanic Catholics support same-sex marriages, while 74% of white Catholics and 70% of Hispanic Catholics support laws that would protect LGBTQ Americans against discrimination. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand attends a funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Church on Feb. 14, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand attends a funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Church on Feb. 14, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

The senator said she is guided by her Christian faith, but she rarely talks about it outside of religious settings because of her commitment to the separation of church and state. She also said religious talk “can be offensive to some people, can be troubling to some people, and something that’s not shared.”

Gillibrand said her faith ― and a weekly women’s Bible study ― inspired her to leave a job at a big law firm and enter public service. Today, she said she still goes to two Bible studies every week. She told NPR that she attends a bipartisan, multi-denominational Senate Bible study when Congress is in session.

Gillibrand is one of 23 Democrats running for president in 2020. A YouGov/ The Economist poll conducted this week found that 12% of respondents who planned to vote in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary or caucus would consider choosing Gillibrand. Fifty-three percent said the same about former Vice President Joe Biden. 

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