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Marco Rubio Courts Religious Right and Football Fans, Launches New Ads

Marco Rubio Courts Religious Right and Football Fans, Launches New Ads

Rubio and Warren
Rubio and Warren

The candidate appoints a so-called religious freedom advisory board featuring Rick Warren and other prominent conservatives.

As leaders of the religious right flock to Ted Cruz's presidential campaign -- to the chagrin of fellow Christian conservative Mike Huckabee -- some, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, are teaming up with Marco Rubio.

This week the Florida Republican's campaign announced the formation of a religious liberty advisory board, including Warren, the founding pastor of California's Saddleback Church; Kyle Duncan, lead counsel for the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, in their lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate; Kelly Fiedorek and Doug Napier, lawyers with the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom; Orthodox Rabbi and academic Meir Soloveichik, and several others.

Membership on the board doesn't equal an endorsement of Rubio, and members are free to advise other campaigns as well, Eric Teetsel, director of faith outreach for Rubio's campaign, told Christian magazine World. Warren, perhaps the best-known member, told the magazine he doesn't endorse candidates.

Warren, an opponent of marriage equality, has worked with both Democrats and Republicans. Then-Sen. Barack Obama appeared at a World AIDS Day event at Saddleback in 2006, and Warren in 2008 hosted a forum for both presidential candidates, Obama and Sen. John McCain. Obama invited Warren to give the opening prayer at his first inauguration, in 2009, a move that brought Obama significant criticism from LGBT activists and other progressives.

Warren and the other board members will "advise the campaign on a range of issues, including persecuted Christians in the Middle East, legal concerns about the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and religious liberty for those opposed to same-sex marriage," World reports.

So far in the campaign, Rubio has not highlighted religion as much as some other candidates have, but when he has discussed the topic, he has made his conservative views clear. "We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network last spring. "Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater."

Rubio underscores his faith in an ad that just debuted in Iowa, where voters will choose candidates in presidential caucuses February 1, and where the religious conservative vote is important for Republicans. "Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our creator for all time," he says in the ad (watch below). "To accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ. The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God's plan."

Rubio also released another ad, displaying his allegiance to another American tradition that is almost a religion for many: football. Why? As USA Today reported: "because football." You can watch that ad here.

Rubio is Roman Catholic; his family joined the Mormon Church at one point in his childhood but went back to Catholicism. He has also sometimes attended a Southern Baptist church.

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