Ramaswamy making the most noise – but can he handle the faith question?

Ramaswamy making the most noise – but can he handle the faith question?

Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Friday, March 3, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Ramaswamy making the most noise – but can he handle the faith question?

If poll numbers are to be believed, he's a long way from overtaking Donald Trump – but not so far from overtaking Ron DeSantis.

Vivek Ramaswamy – after Tulsi Gabbard in 2020 the second Hindu to seek the presidency – is the long shot in the GOP nomination race who has generated interest in his campaign. Yet the faith question lingers.

Trump, who holds double-digit leads in most polls for the GOP nomination, has built an evangelical following not because of his behavior but because of conservative governance on important topics like freedom of religion and abortion.

In contrast, Joe Biden, as president, has touted his Catholic faith in speeches but abused it with pro-abortion policies. Less than two years into his presidency some Catholic bishops in the U.S. were calling for communion to be withheld from Biden, a regular mass attender.

Biden has not only been hostile to one of his faith's most sacred positions, his Department of Justice has infiltrated Catholic churches it suspected of radicalizing parishioners to become domestic terrorists.

When Biden was elected, much was made that he would become only the second Catholic president. Now his actions in many ways seem less "Christian" than the Hindu seeking his job.

Ramaswamy says he believes in one true God who "resides in each of us" but doesn't believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He makes no bones about it.

"In our tradition we say Jesus Christ is a son of God. I understand that's different than saying he's the son of God," Ramaswamy said when questioned about his faith in a recent Q-and-A campaign stop.

That's not the answer evangelicals who strongly supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 want to hear.

"I'm not Christian. I will never pretend to be something I'm not. I'm always going to speak the truth about who I am and what I stand for," Ramaswamy said.

"I'm an ardent defender of religious liberty. I will be an even more vocal and unapologetic defender of it precisely because no one is going to accuse me of being a Christian nationalist." (Vivek Ramaswamy, in an interview with The Associated Press)

Trump's boorish public behavior is well-documented, yet so are his campaign promises and in-office decisions that appeal to many Christians who might view themselves not only as socially conservative but fiscally conservative as well. A LifeWay Research poll found that the economy topped the list of concerns for evangelicals in both 2016 and 2020.

In a Biden administration that constantly employs the Department of Justice against political appointments, the American landscape could look very different today had not Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices in one four-year team. His appointees – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – all voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Highlighting similarities, not differences

Would Ramaswamy be given the benefit of the doubt for governing the same way even if his personal religious beliefs may differ? He spends his time trying to highlight similarities instead of differences.

"I did go to Catholic schools, and I've read the Bible perhaps more closely than most Christians I know. It's the same message as when we say, 'We are equal because we are made in the image of God.' That's where our equality comes from. It's not some secular value. We're equal in the eyes of each other because we're equal in the eyes of God," Ramaswamy said.

He continued: "In the tradition I was raised in we say, 'We're equal in the eyes of each other because God resides in each of us.' We have a duty to each other. That strand of sacrifice and duty that's foundational to Hinduism … I think it's the common strand between the Old Testament and the New."

Earlier this year – before the Trump indictments boosted his lead – some news outlets floated the idea that the plethora of GOP candidates might make it harder for Trump to retain Christian support.

Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appeared stronger on the abortion question.

Ramaswamy is seeking guidance on whether a federal abortion ban would be constitutional, his campaign manager told The Daily Signal.

As Trump's legal issues mount, Ramaswamy has said he would pardon the former president.


Many Republican voters view the attacks against Trump as politically motivated and therefore attacks against them. With that in mind, most candidates have tried to find the difficult balance of not being overly critical of Trump yet differentiating themselves at the same time.

The faith question is a glaring difference between Ramaswamy and not only Trump but other candidates as well. Many voters might be turned off by candidates they consider to be "RINOs" … Republicans In Name Only.

Ramaswamy hopes they will apply that same standard to the faith question. As he asked voters at a New Hampshire campaign stop in July:

"Do you want somebody who lives by those values and shares those values and will govern according to those values even if I don't check the box of being a Christian in name? Or do you want somebody who's a Christian in name but may not, in any sense, live according to those values?"