When Senator Ted Cruz announced his run for President at Liberty University this spring, he made it clear that his bid for the nomination would rely heavily on evangelical voters. Last week, Cruz continued that strategy in an address to over 600 pastors at the Watchmen on the Wall conference, where he weighed in heavily on religious liberty:
“The modern Democratic Party has become so radical, so extreme, that they have determined that their devotion to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any allegiance to religious liberty under the First Amendment,” Cruz told the ballroom. “We’ve got an obligation, as this conference recognizes, to be watchmen on the wall.”
Cruz also focused on his experience as solicitor general of Texas, where he fought for religious freedom on a number of high profile cases before the Supreme Court. His pitch, which focused on increasing evangelical involvement in 2016, received a strong response from the gathering:
Cruz received at least three standing ovations during his 24-minute talk. He urged the pastors to influence their churches and networks to vote. He claimed that 45 million evangelical Christians do not vote, and that their votes are needed to get America back on track. “God isn’t done with America yet,” Cruz said. “You are warriors spreading the truth. The truth will set us free.”
While a few other Republican contenders have spoken on the issue of religious freedom, Cruz’s concerted push for First Amendment rights is sure to turn heads. A lot of Cruz’s surprising fundraising prowess and online presence can be attributed to voters enthusiastic about his commitment to principle and unwillingness to compromise his values. Other candidates wondering whether they should walk back their support of conservative values on life and marriage should take note of Cruz’s populist appeal.
Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.