Ten Republican presidential candidates spoke about their faith and how they care for issues such as marriage, religious freedom and defeating Islamist terrorism as they addressed a big annual gathering of evangelical voters at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa Saturday.
The candidates spoke to the crowd and faced questions from the moderator, Frank Luntz, a political consultant and Fox News contributor, and the audience, with a Bible placed on the table next to them.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the first presidential candidate to address the annual event, picked up the Bible and read from Luke 12:48: "… From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
The 44-year-old freshman senator spoke about his responsibility to others and said he doesn't lack experience.
Rubio blasted President Obama's approach to fighting Islamist terrorists, especially Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"Barack Obama is confused about global terrorism. I'm sure he's against it, I know that he is, but he won't call it what it is, and he won't confront it in a meaningful way," he said. "We should do everything within our legal power to try to access that information. Not through the American justice system, but treating them as enemy combatants."
The annual gathering in Ames, sponsored by Family Research Council, Liberty University, National Organization for Marriage and others, included former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and billionaire businessman Donald Trump.
Trump said people are often surprised when they learn he's a Christian.
"People are so shocked when they find out I am Protestant. I am Presbyterian. And I go to church and I love God and I love my church," he said, after which Luntz asked whether he has ever asked God to forgive him. "I am not sure I have," Trump responded. "I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."
He further explained, "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of 'let's go on and let's make it right.'"
Trump drew criticism for saying that U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War prisoner, is seen as a war hero only "because he was captured." "He's a war hero because he was captured," he said. "I like the people who weren't captured."
Walker strongly called for religious freedom, saying, "That's something that was part of the founding of this country. That's something that we should never lose sight of — protecting religious liberties."
Walker stressed that he would be a pro-life president.
"There's a lot of people who come on stages like this and make great speeches about how they're going to fight to defund Planned Parenthood," he said. "I've actually done that [as a governor]. And if I'm given the chance of being president, I'm going to continue to be a pro-life president just like I've been a pro-life lawmaker, pro-life county executive and pro-life candidate for many years to come."
Walker also said God is behind the decisions he takes. "I hope people saw that even at the height — when we had 100,000 protestors occupy our capitol and I had death threats and all sorts of vicious attacks against me, against my family, against my children, against my parents and others — that we didn't respond in kind. And that in part was driven by our faith," he said.
Jindal spoke about the need to guard religious freedom in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation.
"The government should not be able to fire me, take away my tax status or discriminate against me for being a Christian," he said. "The United States did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States."
Huckabee accused Obama of not being truthful about his stance on gay marriage in 2008 when he said marriage is between a man and a woman. The president is not being truthful even now, or the Bible got re-written "and he's the only one who got the new version," he said. "I think people forget that God will heal this land but He won't do it if we don't meet the conditions for Him to heal it."
Perry promised he would only appoint jurists with strong conservative credentials if he is elected president. "I don't think we can take any chance of having individuals put on our Supreme Court without them having a clear understanding of their constitutional roles as justices."
He added, "It is not for them to legislate. It is for them to be a judge."
Santorum spoke about the need to inculcate the value of family, suggesting that schools should talk about marriage and fatherhood.
"We have to stop the federal government from breaking up families. Whether it is welfare laws or our tax code and that will be a high priority for me as president," said Santorum, who believes two-parent households do economically better than single-parent households.
"Instead of spending our bully pulpit time on global warming, we will spend it on trying to nurture children and raising healthy and happy families," he added.
Santorum also said he's in favor of curtailing even legal immigration, which he said, is driving down wages for American-born workers.
Graham stressed on America's security.
"I'm not going to compromise when it comes to defeating radical Islam, because you get nothing from second place," he said. "We're in a religious war, don't you think? They would kill everybody in this room if they could. … These are religious Nazis. They can't be dealt with. They have to be degraded and eventually destroyed. … We're going to rebuild our defenses and go after these bastards and kill every one of them if we have to. There is no other way to do it."
Carson said U.S. ground troops are needed to defeat ISIS. "We have radical Islamic Jihadists that want to destroy us and our way of life. Their existence is a threat to us."
Cruz criticized the nuclear deal with Iran. "If this deal goes through, billions of dollars will flow into Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Those billions of dollars will go to Hezbollah, to Hamas, to the Houthis. If this deal goes through, and this is not an exaggeration, the Obama administration will become, literally, the world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism. American dollars will fund jihadist seeking to murder Americans, Israelis and Europeans," he said.
Cruz also spoke about his Christian upbringing. "I was raised in a Christian home. I was raised being taught that marriage was a sacrament," he told the audience.