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
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.