The week-long back and forth between Vice President Pence and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg over their past working relationship in Indiana and their differing views of religion in politics continued into Friday.
In separate interviews, Pence said as governor of Indiana he worked closely with Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and considered him “a friend.” Buttigieg said he’s “not interested in feuding” with Pence and is just pointing out the vice president’s discriminatory policies against the LGBTQ community.
Buttigieg, who has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, has mentioned Pence several times in speeches that have received a lot of attention. He accused Pence of abandoning his morals by supporting a “porn star presidency” and that he wished Pence and others on the religious right understood that their quarrel over his being gay “is with my creator.”
Pence, speaking to CNN Thursday, demurred when asked whether he agreed with Buttigieg that God made him gay.
“All of us have our own religious convictions. Pete has his convictions, I have mine,” Pence said. “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the president as he seeks the highest office in the land.”
Pence, asked again about Buttigieg’s comments and whether he considers being gay a sin, said, “I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I draw my truth from God’s word.”
Meanwhile, Buttigieg, in an interview Thursday with Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show, which will air Friday afternoon, said he’s not critical of Pence’s religion but rather how he uses his religion “as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBTQ community.”
“If he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind, that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are,” Buttigieg said.
As governor, Pence backed legislation in 2015 that allowed businesses to refuse customers for religious reasons. Shortly thereafter, a pizza restaurant in the state said it would use the law as justification to never cater a gay wedding.
Buttigieg, who will officially announce his candidacy for president in South Bend on Sunday, is polling at 9 percent in Iowa, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. That puts him behind former vice president Joe Biden, who has 27 percent of Iowa Democrats’ support, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has 16 percent, but ahead of everyone else in the crowded field. Similarly, a poll by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics found that in that state, Biden had 23 percent, Sanders 16 percent and Buttigieg 11 percent.
Buttigieg often speaks of his faith in speeches, but distinguishes his Christianity from the religious right by pointing out that it is his faith that guides his progressive policy beliefs.
“That doesn’t have to be anybody else’s understanding of religion, but it’s where Christianity takes me,” Buttigieg told DeGeneres. “And that does have implications for how I behave in the political space.”