The meetings are not on his public schedule, but every other week, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich does his best to make it to an Italian restaurant in a suburban Ohio strip mall for spiritual fulfillment.
Every other Monday, Kasich, the Ohio governor who has spoken frequently about the importance of faith as he runs for the Republican nomination, discusses the Bible with longtime friends in his hometown of Westerville. He joins about seven other men to discuss God, Biblical stories and their own lives, as a study group then-Congressman Kasich helped found in 1988 lives on.
“We talk about pretty much everything, my Bible guys and me,” Kasich wrote in a 2010 book, “Every Other Monday,” about his three-decade-old group, which has counted attorneys, doctors and a farmer among its membership. “Over the years, we’ve probably touched on every human emotion, every human condition, every human frailty.”
Kasich’s faith played a central role in his life early on, when he stood out as a Catholic altar boy who his friends nicknamed “Pope,” he wrote in the 2010 book. He became less observant as a young adult but said he reconnected with God after a drunken driver killed his parents in 1987, and he now worships at an Anglican church.
"I'm a man of faith, so, but I don’t go out, like, wearing this on my sleeve," he said in an interview with Fox News last week. On the campaign trail, he has often spoken of the importance of the United States’ Judeo-Christian tradition.
A spokesman for Kasich told ABC News in December the governor still attends regularly, although the Rev. Ted Smith, a Methodist minister who has led the group's discussions from the start, told ABC News that Kasich and the others’ busy schedules sometimes take precedent, like when the governor missed a meeting last week.
"For the guys, it is an investment of time," Smith said. "When he's not in New Hampshire or Iowa, the governor gives some priority to meet with this group, fortunately."
Bob Roach, a wealth management adviser in Columbus, Ohio, who founded the group with Kasich, told ABC News that as Kasich has risen in political prominence, the only noticeable change has been a security detail that accompanies the governor to the meetings. Roach said Kasich has sometimes connected the Bible with speeches he has given but that current events do not come up very frequently.
"He appreciates having a group of us where he knows that he can pick up the phone and talk to us, and we don’t have some ulterior motives, and we don’t have some agenda we’re trying to push," Roach said. "We’re foremost his friend and his brother, and that’s what he appreciates. And that’s what we appreciate about him."