Gavin Newsom’s Religion: An In-Depth Look at His Beliefs and Values

Gavin Newsom, the current Governor of California, was raised in a Roman Catholic household but has described himself as a “secular Catholic” or being part of the “Catholic tradition.” While still identifying with certain aspects of Catholicism, his personal beliefs align more closely with broader Christian philosophies.

Early Catholic Upbringing

Born in 1967 in San Francisco, Newsom grew up attending a Catholic church and school like many others in his community. His parents, William Newsom III and Tessa Menzies, raised him in the traditions of the Catholic faith.

However, as he grew older, Newsom began to diverge from certain Catholic doctrines while still maintaining an affinity for the religion’s core principles of social justice, service, and human rights protections.

Evolving Faith and “Secular Catholic” Views

In numerous interviews over the years, Newsom has provided insight into his current religious perspectives, often describing himself as a “secular Catholic” or as someone who follows the “Catholic tradition” more than its strict dogma.

He has praised the positive role of the Catholic church in addressing issues like poverty, equality and human rights globally, while disagreeing with certain positions on social issues like LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights.

In his own words:

“I go to church, not every Sunday, but a good amount. It’s more cultural than anything admittedly, and I have been going to the same church for many, many years…I’m not really in strict accordance with the doctrine of Catholicism but I appreciate the good that can come from the Catholic faith.”

This nuanced view showcases how Newsom’s religious beliefs have evolved from the Catholicism of his youth into a more individualized ethical framework that may draw from various faith traditions.

Upholding Progressive Social Values

Throughout his career in public service, Newsom has been a staunch supporter of progressive social policies that at times conflict with traditional Catholic teachings. This includes his groundbreaking decision as Mayor of San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, a decade before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.

As Governor, he has also championed legislation expanding abortion rights and protections for the LGBTQ+ community in California. These stances demonstrate that while still culturally influenced by his Catholic upbringing, Newsom’s policymaking is guided more by humanistic ethics and individual rights than by religious orthodoxy.

Governor Newsom’s Ethical Framework

Examining Newsom’s policy positions and public statements provides a window into the ethical philosophy guiding his decision-making as a civic leader. While rooted in the Catholic traditions of his upbringing, his overall approach seems to blend humanist, progressive and science-based perspectives.

Core Principles and Values

Some of the key principles and values that appear to undergird Newsom’s ethical worldview include:

  • Human Rights and Equality: A firm belief in the equal dignity and rights of all people regardless of personal characteristics or identities.
  • Reason and Science: An embrace of empirical evidence, facts and scientific consensus as crucial guideposts, particularly on issues like climate change and public health.
  • Social Justice and Compassion: A commitment to creating a more equitable society and using the power of government to uplift the marginalized and combat systemic disadvantages.
  • Personal Freedom and Liberty: Defending the rights of individuals to make their own informed choices about deeply personal matters like reproductive health and sexual orientation.
  • Good Governance and Anti-Corruption: Ensuring ethical, transparent and effective governing as a sacred duty of those in public service.

These tenets are illustrated across Newsom’s major initiatives and policy achievements as both Mayor of San Francisco and now as Governor of California.

Specific Policy Areas and Stances

Let’s take a more granular look at how Newsom’s blend of ethical principles and values shape his governance across key policy domains:

Climate Change and the Environment

Calling climate change a “existential crisis facing humanity,” Newsom has aggressively pursued policies to mitigate its impacts and transition California to renewable energy sources and sustainable practices.

Under his leadership, California:

  • Set a target to achieve 100% zero-emission electricity by 2045
  • Banned the sale of new gasoline cars and light trucks by 2035
  • Pursued cap-and-trade policies to reduce greenhouse emissions
  • Protected 30% of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030

His environmental agenda is rooted in both the scientific evidence around human-caused climate change and an ethical duty to current and future generations to be responsible stewards of the planet.

Public Health and COVID-19 Response

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom’s public health policies like mask mandates and vaccination efforts were guided by data from scientists, public health experts and medical professionals.

When met with protests and pushback, he defended his evidence-based approach:

“We are going to follow the science, data and public health. That’s going to be my lodestar, my orientation…We are going to unapologetically follow not the politics, not the whim, but the science and the data.”

This prioritization of well-established science over political pressure reflected Newsom’s belief that public policy should be rooted in empirical facts and expertise during crises.

Economic Justice and Opportunity

Newsom’s budgetary priorities have aimed to reduce economic inequalities and expand access to socioeconomic mobility through investments in education, affordable housing, small business support and anti-poverty programs.

For instance, in 2021 he approved:

  • $12 billion in new funding for homeless programs and affordable housing
  • Rent relief and utility assistance for low-income families
  • Increased funding for public schools and childhood education
  • Support for first-time homebuyers in disadvantaged communities

These initiatives flow from Newsom’s conviction that the state has an ethical obligation to create more opportunities for its residents to thrive and combat systemic barriers facing marginalized groups.

Other examples where Newsom’s values and ethical worldview shape his leadership include staunchly defending immigrant rights, LGBTQ+ protections, abortion access and criminal justice reforms in California.

Public Opinion on Governor Newsom

Public opinion polling helps provide insights into how Californian’s view their Governor’s job performance and policy leadership. Let’s look at some recent data:

Approval and Favorability Ratings

According to analysis by FiveThirtyEight, Newsom’s approval rating among California adults has hovered around 50% for the last year. Meanwhile, polling averages show around 47% of residents have a favorable view of the Governor.

This data suggests Newsom maintains a fairly even split between support and opposition among his constituents.

Sources of Criticism

Common criticisms of Newsom from those who disapprove of his job performance include:

  • California’s high cost of living and housing prices
  • Concerns over rising crime rates in some areas
  • Slow progress on resolving issues like homelessness
  • Allegations of hypocrisy regarding personal actions during the pandemic

Meanwhile, his supporters praise steps he’s taken to protect abortion rights, address climate change, support immigrant communities and make health care more affordable for families.

Frequently Asked Questions

To provide more context around Newsom’s religious background and values, let’s address some commonly asked questions:

How religious is Gavin Newsom?

Newsom has described himself as being part of the “Catholic tradition” but not adhering strictly to Catholic doctrine. He attends church services occasionally but holds more progressive social views than the Catholic church on issues like LGBTQ+ rights and abortion. His approach blends aspects of his faith upbringing with secular humanist ethics.

Is Gavin Newsom still a practicing Catholic?

While culturally influenced by Catholicism, Newsom does not consider himself a devout, practicing Catholic. He has diverged from the church’s teachings on many social issues and describes his religious beliefs as more “secular” in nature. However, he still identifies with certain Catholic values like social justice.

What are Gavin Newsom’s core values?

Key principles guiding Newsom’s leadership include upholding human rights and equality, following scientific evidence, promoting social and economic justice, defending personal freedoms, and ensuring ethical governance. These values shape his stances on climate change, public health, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion access and more.

Does Gavin Newsom’s religion impact his policies?

Newsom’s religious upbringing informs some of his moral philosophies around human dignity and service. However, his policy agenda is guided more by progressive values, constitutional rights, scientific consensus and an ethical framework of humanism and reason rather than any single religious orthodoxy.

How do Californians view Newsom’s leadership?

Public opinion polling shows Californians are roughly split on Newsom’s job performance, with his approval hovering around 50%. He receives relatively strong marks for his pandemic response, climate change efforts and job creation, but more criticism on issues like homelessness and the state’s high cost of living.


Gavin Newsom’s religious identity represents the complex interplay of faith traditions and secular humanist philosophies that shape many Americans’ belief systems today. While raised in the Catholic faith, he has self-identified as someone who follows the “Catholic tradition” more culturally than adhering strictly to church doctrine.

The principles guiding his leadership and policymaking appear rooted in an ethical framework that blends progressive values, human rights, scientific evidence, economic justice and personal freedoms. Even as he upholds aspects of Catholic social teaching, Newsom diverges from the church on issues like LGBTQ+ equality and abortion rights.


  • Pew Research Center religious demographics
  • FiveThirtyEight approval rating analysis
  • PPIC policy approval poll
  • Newsom quotes on religion from The Guardian, SFGate, and LA Times interviews
  • Climate change and environmental policy information from
  • COVID-19 response details from California’s Newsroom
  • Economic and budget policy information from
  • Additional context from Newsom’s book “Citizenville” and his gubernatorial campaign sites

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