After his strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire Republican primary Tuesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is being lauded as the race’s most viable compassionate conservative and an antidote to candidates such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump who have campaigned on their harshness toward, well, just about everyone.
But Kasich’s views on social issues aren’t so far apart from those of the rest of the GOP field. Take gay rights and gay marriage, issues for which Kasich is considered more moderate than his opponents. Kasich won kudos in August for his thoughtful response during a Republican debate to a question about gay marriage. He said that while he doesn’t agree with the idea in principle, that didn’t keep him from attending the same-sex wedding of a good friend. He also insisted that if one of his daughters turned out to be gay, he would certainly still love her. Kasich called on people to “treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream.”
Despite his calls for tolerance, Kasich is part of a religious community that was built almost entirely on opposition to liberalized religious views on gays and lesbians. Kasich attends St. Augustine Anglican Church, in Westerville, Ohio, a church that was created in 2011 as part of a splinter group, the Anglican Church in North America, that broke with the Episcopal Church after it ordained Gene Robinson, a gay man, as a bishop. Kasich’s denomination doesn’t allow women to serve as bishops or ordain gays and lesbians as clergy, as it considers noncelibate homosexual relationships to be sinful.
Kasich’s personal spiritual adviser is Father J. Kevin Maney, the rector at St. Augustine’s whose bio on the church’s website says he received his religious education “almost entirely online” before being ordained as a deacon in the Anglican Church. Maney has been outspoken in his views on LGBT people, writing on his blog, the Anglican Priest, for instance, to complain that “militant homosexualists” are trying to stifle dissent and silence those who believe homosexuality is a sin.
In a 2012 post, Maney defended a University of Texas professor whose research on the children of same-sex couples had come under fire for his conclusion that they fared worse than children of traditional couples, a finding in conflict with most other research on the subject. The research was later soundly debunked, but Maney saw the criticism of the professor as a sign that Christians were under attack. He wrote:
This is really troubling and scary stuff. The militant homosexualists, as with any militants, are hellbent to stifle any dissenting opinion, even opinion based on legitimate research. These thought nazis will resort to anything and if they are successful, we will pay dearly for it. If you care at all about real education and pursuit of knowledge, if you care about your basic freedoms, especially of thought and conscience, you had better pay attention to stories like this and be prepared to stand up to these bullies before it is too late. This isn’t Chicken Little falsely claiming the sky is falling. This is the real deal and the very foundation of our nation is at stake.
In another post in 2013, he fretted, along with a Fox News commentator, that if the city of San Antonio, Texas, expanded its anti-discrimination statute to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the world would basically come to an end, or at least Christians would be shut out of holding local office. He fumed:
I don’t like to relay stories like this and sound like a purveyor of doom. But this is what the new fascism looks like [his emphasis], all dressed up under the guise of enlightened tolerance, and its sick influence is growing at an alarming rate. We Christians had better wake up and hear the sound of the jackboots. Otherwise our necks will be under them sooner or later. This is very, very disturbing and it is a call for us to be politically vigilant, even as we ask the Lord to forgive these enemies of the cross and to heal them.
Since Kasich took office, he has included Maney in a number of official events. Last year, he appointed him to the Advisory Board of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Maney delivered a prayer at Kasich’s presidential campaign kickoff last summer.
So far, Kasich hasn’t offered up an explanation for the disparity between his compassionate rhetoric and his embrace of a spiritual adviser with extreme views on gay rights advocates. Now that his presidential campaign has taken on new life, he might eventually have to.