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Rubio's Mormon past revealed

 

*** UPDATED AT 1:45 PM ET WITH COMMENT FROM RUBIO SPOKESMAN AND CORRECTS TIMELINE***

Quick: What religion is the son of Cuban exiles?

Answer: Roman Catholic, right? Right.

And also Mormon?

That’s right, Marco Rubio, the conservative senator on everyone’s short list for vice president, was a member of the LDS Church in his youth, BuzzFeed reports.

 

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

When Rubio's family moved to a suburb of Las Vegas, many in his immediate family converted.

When Rubio's family moved to a suburb of Las Vegas, near cousins who were Mormon, many in his immediate family (but not his father) converted, including Marco. Rubio was baptized in the church when he was 8 and enthusiastically participated in the religion, according to the report.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant tells First Read BuzzFeed is incorrect that "Rubio's steadfast participation in the Mormon church continued for several years—until his parents decided to move them to Miami." (*** UPDATE *** BuzzFeed has clarified: "The cousins said Rubio's participation in the Mormon church continued for several years, until his parents decided to move them to Miami—though Conant said the family left the church before leaving Nevada.")

In fact, Conant said, "He left the church when he was 11 or 12, he received his first communion in 1984 when he was 13, and they didn’t move back to Miami until the next year, in 1985."

BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins writes:

“The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio's already-nuanced religious history—and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod. Vice presidential candidates are traditionally chosen to provide ethnic and religious balance to a ticket. Mitt Romney's Mormonism and Rubio's Catholic faith would already mean the first two members of minority traditions on a Republican ticket in American history. Rubio's Mormon roots could further complicate that calculation.”

NBC Latino reports that a former Rubio campaign staffer said this should have no bearing on whether the Florida senator's picked as VP and that he is a "devout Catholic":

“It should not affect it at all, that is totally unfair,” says Bertica Cabrera Morris, who ran Senator Rubio’s campaign in Central Florida and is a Senior Advisor to the Romney campaign, as well as a member of Romney’s Hispanic Steering Committee.

“Marco is a devout Catholic,” Cabrera Morris adds. “The first thing he did when he was confirmed as a Senator was have a Mass,” she adds. “His whole life is about faith.”

And Cabrera-Morris said:

"His family attended the church for a few years.  He went with his family.”

One of the cousins described Marco to BuzzFeed, though, as being “totally into it.”

“Over the years, he and his cousins frequented LDS youth groups, attended church most Sundays—often walking to the chapel because his mother didn't know how to drive—and latched on to the mainstream Mormon culture that was easily accessible in LDS-heavy Nevada.

“For example, when they were in elementary school, Rubio formed a singing group with Michelle and his sister that would put on performances for extended family. Their inspiration? The Osmonds, of course.”

But all that changed when the family was going to move to Miami.

“Rubio was just reaching high school age when his family relocated, and [cousin] Mo [Denis] speculates that their transition to an area with fewer Mormons likely took its toll.”

A Rubio spokesmantold BuzzFeed “that Rubio never requested to have his name removed from the LDS Church's records, which means officially, the church is likely still counting him as a member.”

And:

“While Rubio continues to identify as a Conservative Roman Catholic, he frequently attends a non-denominational Baptist church with his family in Florida. As his notoriety increases, both communities have sought to lay claim to the rising political star, with little resistance from Rubio himself. In fact, the politician has cooperated for profiles in both the Catholic Advocate, and the Evangelical World Magazine—granting pitch-perfect interviews to each.”

NBC Latino also talked to Ignacio García, a professor at Brigham Young University and a Latino Mormon. García said, NBC Latino writes, "it is not surprising that the Rubio family attended a Mormon church when they lived in Nevada."

"Unless you are hiding under a rock,” García said, “a Latino family in Nevada would have been approached by Mormons, who are welcoming to Latinos, especially immigrants.”

In fact, LDS Church leaders have told NBC News that Latinos are a growth area for the church and are more progressive on immigration policy than on other church policies, like abortion, for example.