US vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence are both known for devotion to their religious beliefs: Kaine is a practicing Catholic whose faith was strengthened when he served as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras during his youth, while Pence was raised Catholic but became a devout evangelical Christian in college.
Yet Kaine and Pence have a strikingly divergent approach to faith and public life, an issue raised in Tuesday’s vice presidential debate (Oct. 4) when moderator Elaine Quijano asked how the candidates balance their personal faith with their public policy positions. While their responses couldn’t be more different, both candidates cited biblical scripture to support their conclusions.
Kaine, the Democratic candidate, emphasized his view that Americans should “live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of [their] faith,” but that “the doctrines of one religion should not be mandated for everyone.” He cited his personal belief, in accordance with the Catholic Church, against the death penalty. But he explained that as governor of Virginia, where the death penalty is allowed, he was sworn to uphold the law and that he wouldn’t allow his religious beliefs to interfere.
Pence, a Republican who has been staunchly pro-life throughout his political career, took the opportunity to slam Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s pro-choice position on abortion. “For me, the sanctity of life proceeds out of the…ancient principle where God says ‘Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you,'” said Pence, citing the Biblical verse Jeremiah 1:5. “The very idea that a child almost born into the world could still have his life taken from him is just anathema to me.”
Kaine reaffirmed his campaign’s support of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. “We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own supportive partner, their own minister, but then make their own decision about pregnancy,” he said. “The last thing government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. That is the fundamental difference between a Clinton-Kaine ticket and a Trump-Pence ticket.”
When Pence denied that he or Trump favored legal punishment for women who have abortions—a position that Trump has in fact taken—Kaine retorted bluntly: “Then why did he say that?”
Pence tried to deny the charge by insisting that Trump wasn’t a “polished politician,” but that’s when Kaine decided to cite the Bible, as well. “There is a great line from the gospel: From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks,” said Kaine, referring to Luke 6:45. “When Donald Trump says women should be punished, or Mexicans are rapists and criminals, or John McCain is not a hero, he is showing you who he is.”