Q & A: Ron Paul on Leaving the Episcopal Church, and Whether to Legislate Abortion, Narcotics, & Same-Sex Marriage
Texas Rep. Ron Paul won a straw poll at the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit on October 8, receiving 37 percent of the vote at the social conservative convention. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins downplayed the results some, saying that 600 people registered Saturday morning left after Paul spoke. "I think people are still in the process of deciding where they want to go," Perkins told reporters. Herman Cain took 23 percent and former Sen. Rick Santorum took 16 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won 8 percent while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 4 percent of the vote.
In his speech, Paul emphasized personal responsibility, using the example of Jesus' response to prostitution. "He didn't call for more laws. But he was very direct and thought that stoning was not the solution to the problem of prostitution," he told the crowd. "So do laws take care of these things, or do we need a better understanding of our Christian values and our moral principles?" In an interview with Christianity Today following his speech, Paul explained why he doesn't think the government can create morality.
Do you approach this audience differently than you would another group?
Well I approached the audience the way I have been asked to approach the audience. [FRC] asked for a nonpolitical speech and they asked for me to talk about family. But no, I wouldn't do that on an average stump speech — I wouldn't talk about Christian values. I would talk more about the political process. So this is different, but they wrote me some instructions for tax purposes and other things that it wasn't supposed to be political.
Do you see your faith informing your policy or are you mostly interested in ideas that are pragmatic?
How can your faith be divorced from your everyday living? I don't see any conflict — I think that they do have an influence, obviously.
Can you talk about your faith background? For instance, did you have a conversion experience?
Not as some others describe it. I think the most important religious experience I had was when I was raised in a Lutheran church where confirmation was very important. Church was obviously very important. We all went to church every week as a family affair. But confirmation was when we got to be teenagers and make a decision to go through the lessons and study and learn and make a commitment. At home, birthdays were something, but no parties. Of course it was during World War II and the Great Depression, so there weren't a lot of parties, but there was an acknowledgement. But confirmation was a very important event. Everybody in the family came and it was acknowledged. Yes, I remember that very clearly, because we were old enough to make a commitment and that was when the commitment was made.
You're no longer Lutheran, though?
No, we go to a Baptist church with our children.
Which Baptist church?
First Baptist Church in Lake Jackson.
You raised your kids in the church, is that right?
All of our children were raised in the Episcopal Church. Some [places] were fairly conservative but my wife and I thought the Episcopal Church advocated a position that we didn't endorse, so we left. And our children did not stay in the Episcopal Church either.
Related to specific issues?
I think it was the abortion issue. I imagine they had some other issues. But I think the abortion issue was the real big thing. And I think also some of the money was going to some of the international organizations that were more political—they weren't missionaries. So it was an objection over the way some of the money was being spent.