(Photo: Liberty University/Ty Hester)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) encouraged Christian college students at Liberty University's Convocation Wednesday to stand up for what they believe and defend their religious freedom against current assaults.
"I'm here today, more than anything, to encourage you," he told the approximately 10,000 students in attendance. "To encourage you in your faith, to encourage you in your freedom, to encourage you in standing up for the principles that define you."
According to Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Va., the school's convocation is the largest weekly gathering of young Christians. Cruz's father, Raphael Cruz, spoke at one of the convocations in November.
"Faith and freedom are intertwined," Cruz said, and religious liberty "has never been more imperiled than it is right now."
Cruz touted his successes in defending religious freedom in court cases, citing his work on cases involving a Ten Commandments display in Texas, the phrase "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and a memorial cross on government property in the Mojave Desert.
Cruz used the Obama administration's mandate requiring all employers to cover birth control as an example of recent religious freedom infringements. Noting court cases involving Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor, Cruz said the issue is not about access to birth control, as many claim, but about religious freedom.
These cases go "to the heart of religious freedom," he claimed, because they are about whether the federal government can "force people to violate their religious beliefs."
"Religious liberty has never been more under assault," he added.
As Christians, they are called to act, not stay silent, Cruz told them.
"As believers we are called to action, not to sitting quietly and hiding our faith under a bushel, but to stand and speak no matter what the consequences."
Cruz then noted the examples of two Christians who were sent to prison for speaking out for what they believed — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pastor Saeed Abedini.
"How many of us have been imprisoned for our faith?" he asked.
Believing is more than simply holding a particular point of view, he concluded. Believing requires acting upon what one believes.
"If you believe in religious liberty, if you believe in standing for your faith, if you believe in the liberties that are protected in our Constitution," he said, "then I would encourage and call you to act" on those beliefs.
Typical of his speaking style, Cruz walked back and forth across the stage rather than stand behind the podium. He delivered the speech without a teleprompter or notes, except when he read part of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Cruz is a considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Liberty University has been one of the usual stops among those seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Cruz is also considered one of the leaders of the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party and his pugnacious style has gained him a reputation as an irritant to Republican Party leaders.