Republican Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has received the annual Christian Statesman award for his commitment to upholding Christian values through his character and political career as he makes a bid for the presidency.
The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship honored Scott with the 2023 Distinguished Christian Statesman Award. Following a ceremony on Sept. 19 at the JW Marriott Washington, D.C., Scott was presented with the award intended to honor his commitment to serving God.
"We should stop and thank the Lord that we live in an America where any kid from any zip code can rise beyond their circumstances and achieve their version of the American Dream. That's possible because our founding fathers crafted a country based on a rock, the Lord God," the 58-year-old senator said during his acceptance speech.
"We have troubles. We have challenges. We have things that make us fearful in this nation, but remember — greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Rob Pacienza, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and CEO of D. James Kennedy Ministries, said leaders who publicly profess faith in Christ are considered for the award.
Past award recipients included Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears in 2022, Rep. Vicki Hartzler in 2021 and Rep. Bob McEwen in 2020.
D. James Kennedy, the organization's founder, alongside the board of directors, established the annual award in 1996 to promote Christian values and honor the men and women who publicly live out their faith.
The senior pastor explained that the award often goes to members of Congress. However, a few governors have received the award.
Pacienza said that Scott is vocal about his faith and has lived by his Christian values throughout his political career, which dates back to the 1990s when he served on the Charleston County Council.
In 2009, Scott began serving in the South Carolina state legislature. Two years after that in 2011, he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2013, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by his Republican primary competitor, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
"Just looking at his voting record and what he stood for, standing for God's design for marriage and family, protecting the life of the unborn, and also protecting religious liberty in this nation," Pacienza said. "We felt like it was an obvious choice."
D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship selected and voted on Scott as the recipient of the award before he announced his presidential candidacy in May, according to Pacienza.
As a pastor, Pacienza said that he does not publicly endorse one presidential candidate over another. Still, he clarified that Scott is one of the candidates he would recommend Christians support. Scott sits in sixth place in the RealClearPolitics average of Republican nomination polling as of Thursday morning and participated in Wednesday night's Fox Business debate.
"I always say, look at a person's platform, look at their voting record, look at what they stand for," Pacienza said. "And I would certainly encourage Christians across the country to support Tim Scott."
"I think his personal life and his personal values and his political career have certainly demonstrated that he supports the Judeo-Christian values that led to the founding of America and the freedoms that we have experienced for over 200 years and counting," he said. "So, I would definitely encourage Christians everywhere to support him."
The organization's website declares that it exists "for the purposes of training and equipping present and future political leaders in the areas of evangelism and statesmanship." A brochure explains that the group accomplishes this by hosting lectures and other special events.
Pacienza said that the center is looking to reach members of Congress and their staff or interns working in their offices. For interns, the organization hosts lunches to support them and provide them with a vision for Christian statesmanship on Capitol Hill.
The center equips staffers with aspirations to run for office by providing them with an opportunity to attend seminars and lectures with leaders throughout the country as they contemplate their career path, Pacienza added.
"We want to equip them to think holistically about the Christian life, particularly their calling on Capitol Hill," Pacienza said.
Since the center's founding in 1995, the senior pastor estimated that the organization has helped around 750 leaders, including congressional leaders, staff and interns, by equipping them to serve through its resources.
By 2024, the organization plans to release a white paper to serve as a resource for political leaders on "hot-button issues," Pacienza told CP. The report will help lawmakers think about these issues from a biblical worldview.
"How do we think about economics? How do we think about race and justice? How do we think about prison reform?" he asked. "How do we think about immigration and the sanctity of human life all from a biblical perspective?"
D. James Kennedy Ministries has another ministry called Providence Forum, which develops curriculum and resources that detail America's founding from a Christian perspective. Donations to support the ministry's efforts come from partners throughout the country, Pacienza said.
However, all of the ministry's outreach events and resources are free to people on Capitol Hill.
"We want this to be our way of saying that we are here; we're not asking for anything," Pacienza said. "We're not lobbying for anything. We're here as a Christian outreach to support Christians and their staff on Capitol Hill."