Ted Cruz offered a vigorous defense of religious liberty on Thursday at a Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference while accusing other Republicans, including presidential candidates, of taking time to "rearrange their sock drawers" when controversy over state freedom legislation arises.
The Texas Senator opened his remarks offering a moment of silence for Wednesday's murder victims of Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C.
"Today the body of Christ is in mourning," declared Cruz.
Cruz argued that the issue of religious liberty will be "front and center" in the 2016 presidential campaign.
"I am profoundly optimistic we are going to turn this nation around because of the leaders gathered here today," he continued, while offering praise for the work being done by Ralph Read, founder of Faith & Freedom Coalition and Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America.
Cruz explained how just a few decades ago the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Clinton in 1993, had overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill was introduced by New York Senator Charles Schumer and was supported by then Senator Joe Biden and former Senator Ted Kennedy. He called the RFRA law "identical" to what Arkansas and Indiana proposed this year. The legislation turned controversial when corporations and gay activists erupted in protest over religious freedom protections.
"The modern Democratic Party has decided that their commitment to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any willingness to defend the First Amendment," declared Cruz.
While slamming Democrats for their commitment to special interests over the foundational freedoms, Cruz added, "I'll tell you what was saddest, just how many Republicans ran for the hills.
"Indiana was a time to draw a line in the sand, more than a few Republicans chose that moment to go rearrange their sock drawer," he added.
Cruz stressed the importance of founding principles, noting, "We are a nation that is founded by religious liberty, there is a reason it is the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, because it is foundational." Cruz continually stressed the precarious battle for religious liberty in the country declaring, "We cannot stand unless we are on our knees."
At one point Cruz offered humor declaring, "Just this week, I think the EPA has named religious liberty an endangered species."
He also attacked President Obama's administration for equivocating on the threat to "radical Islamic terrorism."
"When 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS," declared Cruz, "the Obama White House put out a statement saying they were killed because of their Egyptian citizenship." Cruz remarked that Pope Francis offered a much more powerful message when he declared of the Coptic victims, "Their blood confesses Jesus Christ."
Cruz slammed Obama further for equivocating on the nearly 150 Christians massacred by Islamists in Kenya. "You will search in vain for the word Christian or Islam" in a White House statement concerning the executions.
Cruz praised those assembled for speaking up on behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is being imprisoned and tortured in Iran for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
"The Word tells weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning," exclaimed Cruz. "Morning is coming and the men and women in this room are going to play an important role," he added.
The Texas Senator claimed that 50 million evangelicals are not voting, and that they need to be mobilized to turn out for the next election.
In a Thursday blog post at US News titled, "How Ted Cruz Has Already Won the Faith & Freedom Conference," he was praised for "vigor" and "conviction" for his remarks.
The Faith & Freedom Road To Majority Conference is taking place between June 17-20 in Washington D.C. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carla Fiorina, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum are some of the other presidential candidate speakers at the conference.