Rhode Island Bishop Switches Voter Registration from Dem to GOP

by Andrew Johnson

After more than 40 years as a Democrat, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence told a group of students that he has changed his party affiliation in light of the state and national Democratic party’s recent policies.

“I just said I can’t be associated structurally with that group, in terms of abortion and NARAL and Planned Parenthood and [the] same-sex-marriage agenda and cultural destruction I saw going on,” Bishop Thomas Tobin said at a state Young Republicans meeting on Tuesday night. “I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

After being a registered Democrat since 1969, Tobin explained that he had an “a-ha moment” after watching the 2012 Democratic National Convention; the convention made headlines when attendees booed the inclusion of the word “God” in the party’s platform (and was criticized for giving an especially prominent role to abortion rights, leading to this NR cover). Tobin added that his public shift should not be viewed as the Church’s endorsement of either political party.

The bishop also said he was ”profoundly disappointed” in the state’s Catholic politicians who “abandoned ship” on the issue of same-sex marriage when Rhode Island legalized it earlier this year. But abortion seems to have been the main issue that pushed him to switch: He was critical of the Affordable Care Act’s inflexibility for those that oppose abortion for religious reasons to opt out of certain plans and funding.

“That to me is a dictatorship, and you have to wonder who’s imposing what on whom,” he said.

Tobin admitted that he felt “out of his element” speaking to a political group, but said had been invited by a Providence mayoral candidate.