Molina, an immigrant from El Salvador, founded his church in 1986 with just 30 members. He was here illegally before becoming a citizen in 1995.
“There was a time when it was thought Christians were Republicans,” he said in Spanish while his son, René J. Molina, who runs a youth ministry at the church, translated. “There are some independents, some Democrats.”
After years of keeping politics at arm’s length from the pulpit, there has been an exodus of Latinos from the Catholic Church who join the more politically vocal and socially conservative evangelical movement. This religious shift is fueling a powerful wave of activism that political organizations are paying close attention to, because it is complicating their courtship of Latino voters.
The surge in Latino evangelicals has been “a watershed moment,” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, pastor of the Lamb’s Church in New York City and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “In 2012, both conventions reached out to Hispanic evangelicals, because we’re the quintessential swing voters.”
Indeed. This religious upheaval could have a significant impact on the all-important Latino vote and poses a challenge for both Democrats and Republicans.