Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Religion and Politics ’08: Dennis Kucinich



Hometown Cleveland, Ohio

Age 63

Religion Roman Catholic

Education Case Western Reserve University, M.A., 1974 Case Western Reserve University, B.A., 1973

Candidate Website

Candidacy Status Formally declared candidacy Dec. 11, 2006. Formally withdrew candidacy Jan. 25, 2008.

Political Experience U.S. Representative from Ohio, 1997-present Ohio State Senator, 1994-1996 Mayor of Cleveland, 1977-1979 Cleveland City Council, 1970-1975, 1981-1982 Clerk of Courts, Cleveland Municipal Court, 1976-1977

Professional Experience Consultant, Publicly Owned Electric Systems, 1979-present President, Marketing and Communications Firm, 1985-1995 Teacher, Communications and Political Science, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University, 1991-1994 Professor, Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, 1982-1992 Communications Entrepreneur, Software and Public Relations, 1982-1992

Family Information Spouse: Elizabeth Kucinich Children: Jacqueline Kucinich

Religious Biography

In His Own Words

“All of us inevitably live our faith, our ethics, our spiritual principles in everything we do, in every word, in every deed. It is integral to who we are.” Interview, January 2000

Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but had lived in 21 different places, including a car and an orphanage, by the time he turned 17. His family was Roman Catholic, and Kucinich has said that their worship was a “private practice that included mass” and that they attended more than a dozen different churches as they moved from place to place. The oldest of seven children, Kucinich has said that his upbringing made him “live each day with a grateful heart and a desire to be of service to humanity.”

He attended St. John Cantius School, a Catholic high school in Cleveland. Kucinich has said that while growing up he studied the Scriptures and the lives of the saints, and was influenced by the Catholic Workers Movement.

In 1977, at age 31, Kucinich was elected as the mayor of Cleveland, becoming the youngest mayor of any major American city. After losing his bid for re-election following a controversy involving the city’s public electric company, he spent time at Christine Griscom’s Light Institute in New Mexico, which describes itself as a center for “spiritual healing and multi-incarnational exploration.” Kucinich has said that with Griscom he began a “series of discussions on the nature of life, truth, purpose.”

He staged a political comeback in 1994 when he won election to the Ohio Senate. He was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. Kucinich’s 2002 “Prayer for America” speech spurred his ultimately unsuccessful run for president in 2004.

In 2005, Kucinich married his wife, Elizabeth Harper. He previously was married twice; both marriages had ended in divorce.

According to his campaign, Kucinich is currently a member of St. Aloysius church in Cleveland but attends services “not often.” If nominated, he would be the fourth Roman Catholic to win a presidential nomination. If elected, Kucinich would be the second Catholic president, following John F. Kennedy.

On The Issues

Abortion Kucinich was anti-abortion for many years but changed his position before the 2004 presidential election, and he now supports Roe v. Wade. He has said that he made the decision with the guidance of ”the women in my life.” He now advocates making abortion “less necessary” by “creating circumstances that make it less likely abortion will occur,” including improving health care, sex education and access to birth control. He has said that “in a democratic society, people must be permitted to make their own choices,” and that “the choices of women should not be subordinate to the choices of man.” Compare McCain and Obama

Church and State Kucinich has said that “while our fathers understood well the importance of the separation of church and state, they never meant America to be separate from spiritual values.” At the same time, he believes in the separation of church and state and says that federal courts have not gone far enough in requiring the removal of religious symbols from public places. “By removing the trappings of religion from our public schools, courthouses, and other institutions of municipal, state and federal government, we actually increase the freedom of everyone to freely and openly practice the beliefs of their choice,” he said. Compare McCain and Obama

Death Penalty Kucinich opposes the death penalty. He says, “Morally, I simply do not believe that we as human beings have the right to ‘play God’ and take a human life – especially since our human judgments are fallible and often wrong.” Kucinich says that his position on the death penalty is “derived from my moral and spiritual convictions.” Compare McCain and Obama

Education In 1998, Kucinich voted against a proposed constitutional amendment to allow organized public prayer in public schools. He has voted against several bills that would have authorized school vouchers, saying that “funds for vouchers compete with funds for overall improvements in America’s public schools.” In 2001, he voted against a bill to allow school prayer in the wake of Sept. 11 and the U.S. fight against terrorism. He has called for universal free kindergarten and the elimination of No Child Left Behind. Compare McCain and Obama

Environment Kucinich proposes the creation of a Works Green Administration (WGA), modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration. Kucinich’s WGA would aim to create “millions of new jobs” through environmental initiatives. He has also suggested that there is a link between American foreign policy and environmental policy – between “global warring and global warming” – and says the U.S. should lessen its reliance on oil and coal and move toward reliance on wind and solar power. Compare McCain and Obama

Faith-Based Initiatives In 2003, Kucinich told the Interfaith Alliance that he believes that funding faith-based initiatives with tax dollars can be problematic and that the strings attached to federal funds awarded to religious groups could encroach on the freedom of religion. Instead, he said, he sees peace, health care, education and other matters of social welfare as “faith-based initiatives.” Rather than giving money to religious groups, “the work of government ought to be advancing spiritual principles in our everyday life,” he said. Compare McCain and Obama

Gay Marriage Kucinich supports “marriage equality for all” and has said that “those who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, these are God’s children. They should have the same rights.” When he first ran for Congress in 1996, Kucinich said he opposed a law to allow same-sex marriage. In 2003, he said that “there should be a federal law that would allow gay couples to be married.” Compare McCain and Obama

Health Care Kucinich favors universal health care and has proposed expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, eliminating for-profit insurance companies. He has said that currently “Americans are paying for universal health care. They’re just not getting it.” Kucinich has called health care coverage “a basic right in a Democratic society.” Compare McCain and Obama

Immigration Kucinich has said that “those who have been here, who have paid their taxes and paid their dues and been part of our economy for the last decade need to have a chance to have a path to citizenship.” He has also said that he believes all American children should learn to speak Spanish. Compare McCain and Obama

Iraq War Kucinich has made ending the war in Iraq one of his major campaign themes. Kucinich voted against the authorization of the use of force in Iraq in 2002 and has voted against funding for the war since then. He has called the war “an illegal war,” and he introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney in April 2007, arguing that Cheney “manipulated the intelligence process … by fabricating the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.” Kucinich proposes the creation of a Department of Peace that he said would “make non-violence an organizing principle in our society” based on the “teachings of Christ, of Gandhi, of Dr. King, and of other religious leaders.” Compare McCain and Obama

Poverty Kucinich advocates the concept of ending the war in Iraq and using the money saved to fight domestic poverty, calling things like homelessness, joblessness and poverty “weapons of mass destruction.” In July 2007, Kucinich said that he was in favor of reparations for slavery, saying, “The Bible says we shall and must be repairers of the breach. And a breach has occurred. … It’s a breach that has resulted in inequality in opportunities for education, for health care, for housing, for employment.” He favors raising the federal minimum wage. Compare McCain and Obama

Stem Cell Research Kucinich is a co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which would lift restrictions on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. He also voted for the 2006 version of the act, which was eventually vetoed by President Bush. Compare McCain and Obama

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Fresh data delivery Saturday mornings

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for The Briefing

Weekly updates on the world of news & information