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Pence defends role of faith in public life at Catholic conference

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks June 23, 2023, at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington. Pence addressed Catholics gathered for the Napa Institute in Napa, California, July 27, 2023. (OSV News photo/Elizabeth Frantz, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Former Vice President Mike Pence defended the role of faith in public life at a Catholic conference on July 27.

In remarks at the Napa Institute Summer Conference, Pence said that “we need people of faith to live out their faith in the public square.”

“Truth is, those who serve in elective office are a reflection of the people that we serve,” he continued. “More than ever, we need people of conviction and faith to be willing to speak out and speak boldly.”

Arguing the nation is at a “turning point,” Pence added that “I really do believe with all of my heart that the foundation of America is freedom; the foundation of freedom is faith.”

“Now more than ever, we need people of faith, people in the Catholic community all across this country to step up and give voice to your values,” he said.

Relating an example of the role of faith in his own public life, Pence told the audience that after a “difficult conversation” with then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 5, 2021 — concerning the fact that he would not attempt to reject the results of the Electoral College as Trump wanted him to do since he had no constitutional authority to do so — he prayed for the strength to do what he believed in.

“The Bible says in Psalm 15, ‘He keeps his oath even when it hurts,'” Pence said. “I know something about that.”

Pence also subtly criticized his primary rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who recently suggested he would consider appointing Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to a health policy role. Kennedy has embraced anti-vaccine views.

“We will only consider pro-life Americans for cabinet positions in a Pence administration,” Pence said.

Pence issued a statement the previous day condemning DeSantis’ comment.

“When I am President, I will only consider Pro-Life Americans to lead the FDA, CDC, or HHS,” Pence said in the July 26 statement. “To be clear, pro-abortion Democrats like RFK, Jr. would not even make the list.”

Pence, who was raised Catholic but became an evangelical after college, expressed appreciation for his Catholic roots, quipping to those at the Napa conference that after an audience with Pope Francis, he was able to give his mother a rosary the pontiff gave him for her.

“I said, ‘Your Holiness, my brothers will never recover,'” Pence said. “My mom prays that rosary every single day.”

In remarks introducing Pence, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, called him “a man of sterling and tested character, profound character.”

Pence, who was presented with the Napa Institute’s Award for Life, said he will “continue to champion the cause of life in every statehouse in America.”

A July 27 Marquette Law School Poll national survey found Pence polling at 7% among registered Republicans and independents who lean Republican, third place behind Trump and DeSantis.

The Republican National Committee established polling and fundraising requirements for candidates seeking a spot on the stage at the party’s upcoming first primary debate in August. As of press time, Pence has yet to qualify for the debate stage despite reaching the polling threshold, as he does not yet have enough individual donors to his campaign.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on Twitter @kgscanlon.

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