Lacking the presence of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, a wide range of topics were discussed at length Thursday night in the last televised debate before the Iowa caucus, including discussions on the Islamic State, Kim Davis, the apocalypse and how the candidates' political views are inspired by their Christian convictions.
While the GOP's top-polling candidate chose to skip the Fox News debate in Des Moines due to his objection to moderator Megyn Kelly, more time was devoted to dissecting and debating the candidates' stances on issues like amnesty, healthcare reform, Russia, the economy, domestic terrorism, and government entitlements.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is currently sixth in the average of national Republican presidential polls and seventh in an average Iowa polls, was asked about his past remarks regarding the religious freedom of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for over five days last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses with her name on them to same-sex couples.
Last September, Christie told "Fox and Friends" that instead of Davis keeping her elected position, she should be offered "another job" where her religious objections don't conflict with her duties and added that "these licenses have to be issued."
But at the debate, Christie sang a different tune and even rejected moderator Chris Wallace's implication that he suggested Davis be moved to another job.
"No, what I said, Chris, was that the law needs to be followed. And that someone in that office has to do their job," Christie said. "So if Ms. Davis wanted to step aside and get rid of her ability to be able to do that, there should be someone else in that office who it didn't violate their conscience so they could follow the law of the state of Kentucky."
Christie's suggestion is very similar to a religious exemption for court clerks passed in North Carolina following the Supreme Court's ruling last year that nationally legalized same-sex marriage.
"I never said that Ms. Davis should either lose her job or that she had to do it," Christie added. "But what I did say was that the person who came in for the license needed to get it. And so if there's someone in that organization, and it turns out there was, who was willing to be able to do that, that's what we should do."
"But just as importantly, and I agree with what [Ohio Gov.] John [Kasich] said," Christie continued. "You know, we all have our own individual interpretations of our faith."
Christie changed the subject to the threat of radical terrorism by stating that radical jihadis want to restrict the religious liberty of people throughout the world and they want to force the world to believe their own radical interpretation of Islam.
"They want everyone in this country to follow their religious beliefs the way they do. They do not want us to exercise religious liberty," Christie stated. "That's why as commander in chief, I will take on ISIS, not only because it keeps us safe, but because it allows us to absolutely conduct our religious affairs the way we find in our heart and in our souls. As a Catholic, that's what I want to do. And no matter what your faith is, that's what I want you to be able to do."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stressed the importance of defeating IS earlier in the debate, when he accused the Sunni terror group of trying to "trigger an apocalyptic showdown."
"ISIS is the most dangerous jihadist group in the history of mankind. ISIS is now found in affiliates in over a dozen countries. ISIS is a group that burns people alive in cages; that sells off little girls as brides," Rubio asserted. "ISIS is a group that wants to trigger an apocalyptic showdown in the city … of Dabiq in Syria. They want to trigger an apocalyptic Armageddon showdown."
According to Rubio, IS is not the only global actor trying to bring about the End Times. When discussing how he would tear apart President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal, Rubio accused the nation's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of having "apocalyptic vision of the future."
"He views himself not simply as the leader of Iran, but as the leader of all Muslims — all Shiite Muslims on the planet," Rubio said. "And they have a desire not simply to conquer the Middle East and to become the dominant power in that region, but ultimately to be able to hold America hostage."