Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has created a “religious liberty” advisory council for his campaign that seems intent on undermining LGBT rights.
The Cruz campaign announced the council on Monday, the day before many conservative Southern states were up for grabs in the Republican primary on Super Tuesday. (Cruz would ultimately win Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, although Donald Trump took the lion’s share of the night.)
“Religious liberty is the first freedom guaranteed to Americans under the Constitution, and ensuring the protection of that right has been a priority my entire adult life,” Cruz said. “Increasingly, renegade government officials seek to coerce people of faith either to act in a manner that violates their faith or forfeit their career. When I am elected president, that will change. It is time for our liberties to be respected in Washington. The right to religious liberty built America, and denying that right is both un-American and morally wrong.”
In the context of the Republican primary, the term “religious liberty” is considered code for attempts to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. A wave of “religious freedom” bills pending before state legislatures are seen to allow businesses and individuals to deny services to LGBT people out of religious objections.
Cruz’s council is basically a cadre of anti-LGBT advocates. Among is Bishop Harry Jackson, senior of the Maryland-based Hope Christian Church and leading opponent of the same-sex marriage law in D.C.
Another member is Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, who had earlier endorsed Cruz and said in a statement he’s “honored” to join the candidate’s “religious liberty” advisory council.
“Never before has religious freedom been more endangered than it is today under the policies of the Obama administration,” Perkins said. “We need a president who upon entering office will immediately begin reversing the damage done to our freedom to believe and our ability to live according to those beliefs.”
Cruz establishes his “religious liberty” just days after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced his “marriage and family” board before the South Carolina primary. Both boards seem to have the same purpose of enabling anti-LGBT discrimination.
In fact, there’s overlap in the membership of the two boards. Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow Heritage Foundation known for writing tracts in opposition to same-sex marriage in favor of anti-LGBT discrimination, is a member of both Rubio and Cruz’s groups.
Cruz has made opposition to LGBT rights in the guise of religious liberty a cornerstone of his campaign. The candidate has said as president he’d instruct the IRS and Department of Justice to investigate claims of violations of religious freedom.
JoDee Winterhof, vice president for policy and political affairs with the Human Rights Campaign, drew attention to the overlap between Rubio and Cruz’s advisory boards in her criticism of them.
“It’s easy to see why Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are so inseparable when it comes to repealing nationwide marriage equality and rolling back the gains we’ve made under President Obama on LGBT equality: They’re both getting advice from some of the same terrible sources,” Winterhof said.
The full membership of Cruz’s “religious liberty” advisory council follows:
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
Steve Riggle, Ph.D.
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