Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on Wednesday made an unexpected remark about the nature of crime in a city that has seen more than its share of it. “There is crime going on all across America. It is not a racial thing, it is a spiritual problem,” the 2016 presidential hopeful said during a campaign stop in the South Side of Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Speaking before a mostly African-American crowd outside New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn, Paul continued, “I think government can play a role in public safety, but I don’t think government can mend a broken spirit. Government can’t provide you salvation, government can’t save you…Ultimately, salvation is something you accept yourselves.”
The libertarian-leaning senator’s attempt to tie crime to spirituality, rather than to more tangible factors like poverty, racially biased policies and inadequate economic investment, sounded less like what Paul has said in the past and more like the traditional message touted by other GOP candidates seeking the party’s nomination.
Typically, Paul’s stances on crime and criminal justice issues have shared more with socially progressive viewpoints than socially conservative ones: He has called for demilitarized police and reform of racist drug laws, and argued that poverty impacts incarceration rates. Of the Republican candidates in the race, Paul has been most open and unbiased in his effort to connect with black voters, despite the friction it sometimes causes in his own party.
Paul had been invited to speak by New Beginnings Pastor Corey Brooks, who has previously faced criticism for supporting the candidacy of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. “On the South Side, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we’re just excited that you’re coming to hear our views,” Brooks said on Wednesday, according to DNAinfo Chicago.