MIAMI – Florida Senator and rising GOP star Marco Rubio was baptized as a Mormon during his childhood along with other members of his immediate family, according to a new report Thursday.
The report on BuzzFeed, a social media website, came after The Miami Herald published tidbits from Rubio's upcoming memoir "American Son," revealing that the Rubio family attended a Mormon church in the Las Vegas area for a few years around the time the senator was eight years old.
The revelation about Rubio, a practicing Catholic who was elected to the Senate in 2010 and is believed to be on every 2012 Republican candidate's vice-presidential shortlist, had gone unnoticed by the national media until now and has never been addressed publicly by the senator.
Rubio, now 40, was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) along with other members of his family around the age of eight and remained active in the faith during his early years, family members told BuzzFeed.
According to the website, Rubio's immediate family -- with the exception of his father, who liked to smoke and drink -- converted to Mormonism in the 1970s after moving to a Las Vegas suburb to be near their Mormon cousins.
"Right when they moved here, they started going to the church activities with me," one first cousin, Michelle Denis, told the website. She described how the Rubio family would socialize with Mormon missionaries and read the Book of Mormon and said Rubio and his sister Veronica frequently attended LDS youth groups.
"He was totally into it. He's always been into religion. Football and religion. Those were his things," she said.
Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, confirmed the outlines of the report, noting that the senator returned to the Catholic church while they were still living in Las Vegas -- when Rubio was about 11. He received his first communion when he was 13, and the family later moved back to Miami.
"When they went to Miami, they basically stopped going to church," said Mo Denis, another first cousin. "I think they probably didn't have the [LDS] church around them there."
Michelle Denis agreed, saying the family rejoined the Catholic church at Rubio's insistence.
"He really convinced the whole family to switch religions," she said. "He's very vocal, so he convinced them all to become Catholic."