Rubio, Cruz Talk Religious Liberty — But What Will They Do?

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

At a religious liberty rally in South Carolina featuring video by Tony Perkins and testimonials from Christians who feel unsafe speaking in public or at their place of employment, Sen. Ted Cruz linked the attacks on Paris with religious liberty threats at home, reports CNN:

After chastising the media on Friday for ‘belittling’ these stories of religious persecution and at one point taunting television cameras to air videos critical of Planned Parenthood, Cruz told reporters before the rally on Saturday that his argument didn’t just apply to Christians, though he said they were the ones most ostracized today and that they needed constitutional protections.

‘It protects Christians, it protects Jews, it protects Muslims, it protects anyone who is engaged in peaceful exercise of their faith,’ Cruz said. ‘That being said, though, the Obama administration has demonstrated a particular antipathy for Christians.’

Meanwhile at the Sunshine Summit in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio also defended religious liberty in the abstract, linking strong values with strong families and a strong nation:

Government shouldn’t be doing anything that undermines the family. And government shouldn’t be doing anything that undermines our values. And it does. And it does. We have anti-poverty programs that do not cure poverty, but discourage work. We have anti-poverty programs that discourage marriage. We have a tax code that discourages marriage. And we have a government that increasingly is targeting the faith community in this country, and undermining the values that they teach our children in our families. The result is a growing number of Americans who hold traditional values who feel like outsiders in their own country. If you believe in basic principles like marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman, if you believe that all human life is worthy of protection, you’re labeled a bigot or a hater! One of the things I believe passionately is if I’m president of the United States, I will not appoint judges that do not understand it – I will not have judges appointed who do not understand the limits the Constitution places on the federal government. And I will have a Justice Department that defends the religious rights and liberties of every single American. Because religious liberty is not the right to believe whatever you want – it is that, but it is more. It is not just a right to believe whatever you want. It is the right to exercise it in every aspect of your life, at work and at home!

I haven’t yet seen the transcript of Sen. Cruz’s remarks, so I will withhold judgment on Cruz’s commitments to action. But Sen. Rubio’s ringing rhetoric on the importance of religious liberty fall flat against his vague promises of good judges—after all, what Republican has not promised that? And a Justice Department that protects religious liberty—what would he do and would it survive his own term in office?

Both Sen. Cruz and Sen. Rubio are cosponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would actually prevent the federal government from discriminating against gay marriage dissenters in employment, contracts, or the tax exempt status of our schools, ministries, and parachurch organizations, which is a good sign. But abstract agreement is not the same as a clear public promise to pass legislation. If not FADA, then what?

The fault, dear fellow Christian, lies not in our candidates but in ourselves: We need to ask for more than values talk. We need a clear and pressing commitment to action.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.