In his bid for the presidency, Ted Cruz (R) has consistently surrounded himself with some of the most extreme social conservatives in the country. In addition to appearing beside these individuals at various events, he also recruited a Religious Liberty Advisory Council — what Fox News’ Todd Starnes calls a “faith-based Justice League.”
Through Starnes, Cruz unveiled this week just what kind of ideas this council has developed to protect “religious liberty.” Given the fact that his council consisted of representatives from only the most conservative iterations of Christianity, the 15-point list is unsurprisingly dedicated to privileging Christian beliefs and enabling discrimination against the LGBT community and women.
For example, one of the recommendations is to “rescind Executive Order 13672 – an order that requires certain federal contractors to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” This order, which Obama first issued back in 2014, requires companies that contract with the federal government to have a policy against discriminating against LGBT people. By vowing to rescind it, Cruz is blatantly endorsing such discrimination and promising to subsidize it with taxpayer funding.
The council also recommends that Cruz “direct all federal agencies to stop interpreting ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and/or ‘gender identity.'” This would gut essential protections that LGBT people — and particularly members of the transgender community — are relying on. Victims of discrimination in employment and education have successfully found relief based on these interpretations of the law, and that protection would be eviscerated.
The LGBT community isn’t the only target; Cruz would also finally have the opportunity to strip away important protections for women under Obamacare. His “religious liberty” advisers would have him “direct the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate its requirement that all employers include coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures.” This would make it even harder for women to access birth control than the Hobby Lobby case has already made it.
Other suggestions include protecting religious organizations from the IRS if they engage in political speech, expanding school prayer to the fullest extent possible, and ensuring that military chaplains can condemn homosexuality and women who have sex outside of marriage without consequence.
None of these ideas is surprising, however, given who serves on Cruz’s committee. His council’s chair is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group. “These are the policies that he is going to pursue,” Perkins promised Starnes. “He is absolutely committed to the issue of religious liberty.”
Other members include:
- The Benham brothers, who have become celebrity victims since HGTV decided against giving them a house-flipping show because of their anti-gay beliefs.
- Ryan T. Anderson, the Heritage Foundation’s point man for espousing anti-LGBT positions.
- Bishop Harry Jackson, who was one of the loudest opponents of marriage equality fights in the District of Columbia and Maryland.
- Steve Riggle, a Houston pastor who helped lead the fight against the LGBT-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
- Kelly Shackelford, head of First Liberty (formerly the Liberty Institute), a legal organization that defends individuals and businesses when they discriminate against LGBT people.
- Jim Garlow, a California pastor and activist with a storied history of railing against the LGBT community.
No one on the council represented any non-Christian religions nor any of the LGBT-inclusive or even more moderate Christian denominations. With Ted Cruz as president, it seems the only religion that will have any liberty is his particular conservative brand of evangelical Christianity.