With the passing of several state laws protecting religious liberty and the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, three Republican presidential candidates had one central theme at the June conference organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
“Religious liberty has never been more threatened in America,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, amid assertive hums from the audience. “I believe 2016 will be the religious liberty election.”
Cruz recalled how men and women fleeing religious oppression founded America: “If people of faith show up, if we stand up for our faith and liberty in the constitution, we will win and turn the country around.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., touched on every American’s right to live out his or her faith. He also talked about helping the government transition to the 21st century.
“Yesterday’s ideas that America can no longer afford to be the most powerful country on the planet is what brought us to this point,” he said.
For Heather Pepe, a first-time attendee to the conference, this transition Rubio touted is due.
“We desperately need to change the course that the country is on, and we need real leadership that hopefully, one of the men on that stage is going to provide,” she said.
Two protestors interrupted Rubio’s speech. The first, who identified himself as “a black man and a first generation college graduate,” noted the Charleston shootings, while the second protestor spoke on immigration polices.
“My father was deported,” he said. “Rubio, why do you keep supporting the deportation of families?” The audience responded with boos, but Rubio said they had the right to protest—the benefit of living in a free society.
Since declaring his interest in running for president, the mantra of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been to keep the government out of people’s business. This includes the right to religious freedom.
“Ronald Reagan said freedom and faith are so intertwined that you should never attempt to decouple them,” he told conference attendees. Paul criticized sending U.S aid to countries like Syria that persecute Christians. But he said his campaign goes beyond a single constitutional amendment: “I want to be the candidate for the entire Bill of Rights.”
The conference speakers did not ignore Wednesday night’s shooting in Charleston, S.C. The conference leaders prayed for the families of the victims and observed a moment of silence for the dead. Kellyanne Conway, president of The Polling Company & Women trend, who gave the opening and closing remarks, noted how the victims died while worshipping in church.
“I hope it’s some comfort to those families that their loved ones died in the glory of Christ,” she said.
— by Onize Ohikere