Now Deeply Christian, Cruz’s Religion Once Wasn’t So Obvious

AP
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ted
Cruz sometimes sounds more like a preacher than a presidential
candidate, praising the transformative love of Jesus Christ and
promising to defend religious liberty. But the Texas senator rarely
evokes the biblical tenet of tithing, the mandate that 10 percent of
possessions be donated to God.

That’s because Cruz
doesn’t tithe. He and his wife donated less than 1 percent of their
income to charity and nothing to churches, including to their own in
Houston, according to tax returns from 2006 to 2010, the most recent
Cruz has released.

His campaign declined requests from The
Associated Press to provide recent tax returns or otherwise demonstrate
donations since 2010. Cruz has said he and his wife were more focused on
using their seven-figure annual income to build a financial foundation
for their family.

Being a past charitable cheapskate provides a
glimpse of who Cruz was before running for president, when he was known
more as a fierce fiscal conservative than a devout Southern Baptist.
Cruz’s religious side similarly didn’t dominate his 2012 run for Senate
in Texas. Cruz suggested shortly after taking office that politicians
should “avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith” — advice
he has ignored amid his rise in national polls.

“It’s not like
this is a new issue, it just wasn’t front and center,” James Bernsen,
the spokesman for Cruz’s Senate campaign, said of religion. “Ted’s main
focus was on Obamacare, taxing and spending, the national debt.”

On
the night he won the 2012 Texas primary, Cruz reminded a packed Houston
hotel ballroom that victory came on what would have been the 100th
birthday of free-market champion Milton Friedman. Only after that did he
praise God.

The following year, Cruz told the Christian
Broadcasting Network: “I think anyone in politics, you’ve got a special
obligation to avoid being a Pharisee, to avoid ostentatiously wrapping
yourself in your faith.”

Now seeking the White House, Cruz has
done the opposite. He is trying to solidify support from evangelical
Republicans against Donald Trump and religious conservatives like Rick
Santorum and Mike Huckabee, whose supporters have questioned Cruz’s lack
of tithing.

Cruz launched his presidential bid at evangelical
Liberty University and has sought support from pastors in all 99 Iowa
counties. A super political action committee built a website trumpeting
his faith bona fides, including a video detailing how a then-8-year-old
Cruz “surrendered his heart to Jesus” during summer camp at a Christian
ranch. Cruz mentioned faith repeatedly in Thursday’s GOP debate.

Cruz’s
past charitable donations weren’t so generous, though he isn’t alone in
withholding more recent tax records. Trump also hasn’t disclosed his
tax returns. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
have released partial returns from recent years.

Clinton reported
giving away 13 percent of her family’s taxable income in 2014, and Bush
reported donating 4 percent of his that year.

Sanders did not
release the part of his 2014 return that shows charitable donations, but
his campaign said he and his wife gave away about 6 percent of their
taxable income. Fiorina reported donating what amounted to 22 percent of
her family’s taxable income in 2013.

Cruz’s Senate campaign
released five years of tax returns through 2010 showing that he and his
wife donated about $44,500 of the more than $5 million they made over
the period — less than 1 percent of their income.

Those returns
didn’t include itemized donations, but Cruz gave a list to the San
Antonio Express-News in 2012. The newspaper reported that, while some
donations went to faith-based organizations, no money was reported to
have been donated to churches, including Houston’s First Baptist, where
the Cruzes have worshipped since 2008.

Cruz responded that he’d
“worked and saved to build a solid financial foundation to provide for
my children.” He has two daughters.

Recently asked about tithing
by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Cruz said “I will readily admit
that I have not been as faithful in this aspect of my walk as I should
have been.”

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed.

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