WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty declined to sign a controversial family values pledge from an Iowa organization Wednesday, saying, “I prefer to choose my own words.”
The pledge, from the Family Leader, an organization headed by former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, has been criticized for a since-deleted passage that seemed to imply black children are less likely to be raised in a traditional family setting today than they were during slavery.
Pawlenty is the latest Republican candidate to decline to sign the pledge. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have all spoken out against it.
Two candidates — Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — have signed the Family Leader pledge.
“I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Platts’ commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow Pledge,” Pawlenty said in a statement. “However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words.”
The Pawlenty campaign released a video before the announcement featuring Pawlenty and his wife Mary discussing their faiths and stances on family values. The Pawlentys detailed their relationships with each other and God, and said their time worshipping at Eden Prairie’s Wooddale Church have defined their spirituality.
“My faith is very important to me and it influences all that I do, and it informs people about what my values are, and of course that has a great bearing on how you conduct yourself in public office,” Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty also laid out his positions on issues like gay marriage, abortion and the separation of church and state, all of which confirm to socially conservative norms.
The message is one that should resonant with Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. A recent survey from the Des Moines Register showed nearly 50 percent of them identify as born-again Christians.