Shaking hands with a pastor who advocates putting gays to death ought to harm one's presidential chances, right? pic.twitter.com/u3tEfHee9I— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) November 6, 2015
To read an introduction to Freedom 2015, click here. To read about Kevin Swanson at Freedom 2015, click here. To read about Geoffrey Botkin's talk, click here and here.
Freedom 2015: The National Religious Liberties Conference took place on November 6-7 in Des Moines, Iowa. Three Republican presidential candidates -- Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee -- spoke at the event alongside controversial radio host Kevin Swanson. Freedom 2015 offered the candidates an opportunity to woo Religious Right voters with talk of "religious liberty" and "judicial tyranny".
The three candidates seemed unfazed by the event's homophobic, sexist, and Christian reconstructionist speakers. To boot, the organizer's history of vicious anti-gay remarks failed to serve as a red flag for the candidates, despite a petition from People for the American Way urging the candidates to denounce Swanson's bigotry. In the wake of Swanson's deranged rants, I wonder if the three candidates regret attending the event.
In the days leading up to the event, Cruz was evasive about his ties to Kevin Swanson. At the 14:53 mark of this video, CNN's Jake Tapper asks Cruz about Swanson during an interview on The Lead with Jake Tapper, but Cruz changed the subject.
TAPPER: You are speaking at a conference this weekend, the National Religious Liberty Conference in Des Moines. It's organized by a guy named Kevin Swanson. You've been very outspoken about what you deem liberal intolerance of Christians, but Kevin Swanson has said some very inflammatory things about gays and lesbians. He believes Christians should hold up signs at gay weddings, holding up the Leviticus verse instructing the faithful to put gays to death because what they do is an abomination. I don't hold you responsible for what other people say, but given your concern about liberal intolerance, are you not in some ways endorsing conservative intolerance?I'm surprised that Cruz knew nothing about Swanson's homophobia. Why wouldn't a political candidate do his research before a major public appearance? What presidential campaign fails to vet events and allies?
CRUZ: Listen, I don't know what this gentleman has said and what he hasn't said. I know that when it comes to religious liberty, this is a passion of mine that has been a passion of mine for decades, and that I have been fighting for religious liberty for everyone ... In the last six and a half years under the Obama administration, we have seen an assault on religious liberty from the federal government.
When Cruz appeared on-stage with Swanson at Freedom 2015, he insisted that a U.S. president must be religious. In an excerpt of his speech captured by Right Wing Watch, he had this to say.
SWANSON: How important [is it] for the resident of the United States to fear God, and what does that mean to you?
CRUZ: Any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander in chief of this country.
Bobby Jindal spouted right-wing talking points at the summit as well. In this Right Wing Watch video, Jindal waxed poetic about religious freedom, pitted religious freedom against LGBTQ equality, and warned listeners that the IRS would be targeting Christians.
Look, the IRS could be coming after churches and pastors next. We can't simply say, 'Well, it doesn't impact me, 'cause I'm not a baker, I'm not a caterer, I'm not a musician.' They're coming after those of us that want to live our lives according to our Christian faith.
It shouldn't take a governor's executive order to protect our First Amendment rights. The Founding Fathers put this in the Constitution on purpose. They understood that America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America. There's no freedom of association or freedom of speech without religious liberty, so when the left tries to take God out of the public square, we need to remind them [that] the Founding Fathers ... got something profoundly right. Government is not what makes America great. Government doesn't create our rights. The Founding Fathers were creating a limited government to secure but not create our God-given rights ... No earthly court can change the definition of marriage. No federal government, no ACLU should be able to take away our religious liberty rights. We were given those by God Almighty.
Finally, Mike Huckabee refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. In an excerpt of his talk captured by Right Wing Watch, Huckabee admitted that if elected president, he would not acknowledge the Supreme Court's decision as law.
SWANSON: As Christians, we are concerned about two important Supreme Court rulings: Roe v. Wade in 1973, and then this year, Obergefell. How in the world can we reverse these horrific rulings at the Supreme Court of the United States? What can the president do about it?These are some of the GOP candidates who want to be president of the United States: a senator who conflates religiosity with presidential competence, a governor who feeds the Religious Right's persecution complex, and a former governor who would ignore Supreme Court decisions he disliked. These three candidates do not understand what real religious liberty entails and do not represent Americans outside the fundamentalist Christian bubble. Voters, take note.
HUCKABEE: Well the first thing the president ought to do is exactly what he should do, and that's uphold the Constitution. The courts can't make law, and if the president surrenders the entire executive branch power to the judicial, he has surrendered to the doctrine of judicial supremacy, which leads us to what Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, and Lincoln all called judicial tyranny. So here's what the president should do, and if I were president, this is what I would do. On the same-sex marriage decision, I would simply say it is not law. It is not law because the people's elected representatives have not made it law, and there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the power to make a law. They are the Supreme Court. They are not the supreme branch or the supreme being. They can't make law!
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Warren Throckmorton: Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee and the Alternative Reality Conference
Religion Dispatches: “Ready to Be Arrested?”: GOP Prez Candidates Show Up For Freedom 2015
The Daily Beast: Jesus Freaks Huddle For The Gaypocalypse