Ted Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Committee

Cruz Pastor in Chief

Marco Rubio was the first GOP candidate to put together a religious liberty advisory council.  Ted Cruz has followed suit.  Cruz’s committee was formed in February and it has just released its recommendations today. (I don’t seem to remember Rubio’s committee issuing any recommendations).

Here is the press release:

HOUSTON, Texas – Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz today received initial recommendations from his Religious Liberty Advisory Council, formed last month to advise his campaign and future administration on policies to defend religious liberty domestically and internationally.
“During this Holy Week, as Christians prepare to celebrate spiritual freedom in Christ, we remember also that religious liberty is the first American freedom,” said Cruz. “I thank this learned and committed group of leaders for their wise recommendations, and as president I will be proud to work with them to protect our religious liberty. Defending religious liberty has been a lifelong passion, and I’ve been blessed to help win national victories, preserving the Texas Ten Commandments monument, the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.”
The recommendations comprise 15 initial actions, both legislative and executive, to emphasize and bolster the freedom of religion in the United States. Included are the following proposals:

  • Issue an executive order preventing the federal government from discriminating against Americans who believe that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.
  • Reinstate thorough and protective conscience rights protections in federal healthcare programs.
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to exempt all employers who object for moral and religious reasons from any contraception mandate.
  • Update and revise military regulations to reflect a robust constitutional understanding of the first amendment rights of military personnel, particularly chaplains.
  • Pass the First Amendment Defense Act “to prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”
  • Direct the IRS to publicly clarify the generous rights of non-profits and religious leaders to engage in political speech without compromising their tax-exempt status.
  • Rescind executive orders which limit the government from partnering with faith-based non-profit organizations.
  • Order the Department of Education to issue guidelines which accurately address the rights of students, teachers, and other school personnel to live out their faith in a school setting.

Here are the members of the committee:

Chair – Tony Perkins
President, Family Research Council

Ryan Anderson, Ph.D.
William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation

Dr. Tony Beam
Vice President for Student Services and Christian Worldview, North Greenville University

David Benham, entrepreneur

Jason Benham, entrepreneur

Ambassador Ken Blackwell
Former US Ambassador to the UN for Human Rights

Teresa S. Collett
Professor, University of St. Thomas

Jim Garlow, Ph.D.
Pastor, Skyline Church, San Diego, CA

Dr. Mark Harris
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC

Pastor Jack Hibbs
Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, CA

Bishop Harry Jackson
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church, Bishop, International Communion of Evangelical Churches

Richard Lee, Ph.D.
President, There’s Hope America

Paige Patterson, Ph.D
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Everett Piper, Ph.D.
President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Jay Richards, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor, School of Business & Economics, The Catholic University of America

Dr. Steve Riggle
Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, Ph.D.
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Kelly Shackelford
President and CEO, First Liberty Institute

Carol Swain, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University

A few thoughts:

As expected, and as I have argued this before, Cruz’s committee understands religious liberty in a very limited way.  For example, there is nothing here defending the right of Muslims to practice their faith freely without government interference.  This seems to be a very pressing religious liberty issue in the United States right now. (As far as I can tell, all the members of the council are Protestant or Catholic). Why not address it? If one reads between the lines, the board’s recommendations are related almost entirely to religious liberty issues that conservative Christians are facing.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Christians today do have some serious religious liberty beefs–especially as it relates to Obamacare and marriage.  But Cruz and his committee are going to have to convince me that they see “religious liberty” as anything more than code for the defense of their own beliefs.

The differences between Cruz’s religious advisory committee and Rubio’s religious advisory committee are worth noting.  Cruz has filled his committee with Christian nationalists and culture warriors.  Rubio reached out to Christian intellectuals, some of whom had more nuanced views om these religious liberty issues.  (Only Samuel Rodriguez was on both committees).

I am sure I will return to this issue soon.  Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Ted Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Committee

  1. Don, there are plenty of Americans who understand that the religious liberty of Christians is not under attack in our country. Yes, previously held special privileges are being challenged which I know is upsetting but that is the reality they will have to deal with in the 21st Century. There is no “rescuing” faith-based bigotry from the ash heap of history. You can be “pro-life” and hold those values dear but you can’t use the law to force your faith-based beliefs on your fellow Americans. You can hate homosexuals but you can’t use your deeply held faith-based beliefs to deny them their civil liberties as American citizens. Similar arguments were used to fight against African-Americans gaining their civil liberties, the same was true for women gaining the franchise and now we see it on GLBT issues. “Religious freedom” is just the latest code word for right-wing white Christian domination of the political process. The time for white Christians for holding and exercising special privileges is passing but not without a last, desperate fight by those who believe they can resist progress. The Freedom of Conscience is a right we all have to exercise in our personal lives as citizens of a secular Constitutional Republic. Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, etc., are all equal under the law. We shouldn’t want it any other way because in a direct Democracy we’d face the tyranny of the majority and that is always subject to change.


  2. Hi Don. Thanks for the response. I agree. If we are going to take religious liberty seriously we need to respect the rights of pro-life Christians and those who believe in traditional marriage. I think this can be part of a healthy American pluralism. But I am not convinced that evangelical Christians are the only ones dealing with significant religious liberty issues. (I reference Muslims in the piece). If we are going to defend religious liberty for some we need to defend religious liberty for all. Ted Cruz is running for the President of the United States, not President of evangelical Christians who are concerned about religious liberty.


  3. I think the recommendations might be more situational and in the moment, not a full declaration on religious liberty. So many of the people on this council are good people who have a track record that is worthy. Your concerns seem out of proportion to the challenge of the moment. “Rescuing” the liberties of those rooted in the Judeo-Chrisitan tradition is a necessary step, though not a complete response. No one can doubt that these liberties are under attack. I am all for specifically addressing the issues conservative Christians are facing in the public square in a pointed way and thankful that someone is doing it.


  4. Conservative Christian Dominionists like Cruz and his followers are not facing discrimination or oppression. They are angry over their loss of their privileged status in our society. No one is forcing them to get “gay married” or to use birth control. If a Christian owns a business that serves the public, they can’t discriminate based on their “deeply held religious beliefs” and non-profits that take taxpayer money cannot discriminate against their employees or those who receive services. White Christian complaints of oppression ring hollow especially when they attempt to use the power of the government to enforce their faith-based bigotry on our country. The tide of history and demographics are against Dominionists like Ted Cruz. We are becoming a more diverse population as time passes including the rise of the Nones, the non-religious. The best defense of our freedom of conscience is to maintain the Wall of Separation Between Church and State. We see the plethora of problems caused by mixing religion and politics. If a religion needs government support, it obviously doesn’t have a worthy message. The Free Market of ideas will determine what faith-based beliefs succeed and what will pass away into history.


  5. In other words, Ted Cruz is not going to follow the US Constitution. Instead, he is going to ignore the First Amendment and allow bigotry and discrimination while denying other faith equal protection under the law. On top of that, he is going to shove his version of religion down everyone’s throats regardless of whether they agree with him or not.

    I’ll be voting for the Democrats this fall. They understand the US Constitution better by far than Trump or Cruz and will do a much better job protecting religious liberty than Trump or Cruz will.

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