Presidential Church-Shopping

In his Tilting at Windmills column in the June/July/August issue of the Washington Monthly, Matt Cooper observes that the American habit of church-shopping and denomination-changing is reaching the ranks of presidential candidates, and notes this ironic fact about Episcopalian-turned-Catholic Jeb Bush (brother of Episcopalian-turned-Methodist George W. Bush):

[T]here’s only been one Catholic presidential nominee since JFK, and it was another JFK, John Forbes Kerry. Jeb Bush could be the second Catholic president, which is still a hard concept to grasp. I try to imagine his WASPy grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, who was in the Senate during JFK’s presidency and who declined to run in 1962 in part because of Catholic concerns about his stance on birth control. (Connecticut, now seen as so progressive, was the home of the Griswold decision, which allowed married couples to buy condoms.) Could JFK have imagined that the next Catholic to take the office wouldn’t be some Irish Bostonian or an Italian from Chicago but Prescott’s grandson?

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz likes to say: “”I’m Cuban, Irish, and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist.” And in his fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio, we have the first ex-Mormon presidential candidate.

But nobody’s more typically American than ex-Hindu “Evangelical Catholic” Bobby Jindal.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.