GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) rallied 400 North Carolina pastors Tuesday evening, explaining to them why he is pro-life–an issue that, given Paul’s libertarian leanings, could be a point of attack from other conservative candidates in his likely 2016 presidential campaign.
While opening his remarks, Paul joked a bit about the awkwardness that comes with a libertarian-leaning Republican like himself being featured at a conservative Christian pastors’ event.
“People say, ‘gosh what are you doing there? What are you doing talking to a bunch of ministers? You’re a libertarian,'” Paul said. “I tell them, ‘look, I’m libertarian-ish.’ And people say, ‘well what’s that mean? Is that consistent with Christianity? Is that consistent with right and wrong?’ I think they don’t quite get it. The whole thing about sort of the people who believe in this libertarian thing is that it’s non-aggression. It isn’t religiously based, but many of us are religious. But it’s based on non-aggression. And people just say, ‘you believe in everybody doing whatever they want, license, libertine, that’s what you’re all about.’ And I say, ‘no, that’s not me at all.'”
The event at the Sheraton convention center in Greensboro brought together 400-plus politically conservative pastors from all across the state, and was hosted by the American Renewal Project. Breitbart News was the only media outlet allowed inside the closed press event during Paul’s speech, and has an exclusive look at what he talked about with the pastors.
“It’s really all about defining when life begins,” Paul said about the pro-life movement.
Paul made a libertarian-sounding argument for being pro-life–that babies have constitutional, God-given rights when they’re born, so unborn babies who could survive out of the womb should, as well.
“Once that baby’s born, it should have rights,” Paul said. “So what I ask them is you’re going to tell me the one-pound baby has rights, but the six-pound who’s still in the womb has no rights? You’re going to tell me that the baby sucking a thumb you see on an ultrasound, a baby that a doctor could operate on, is a baby that has no rights? This is where we should have the debate; this debate is ongoing and we are making some progress. It’s frustrating, but we are making some progress.”
Paul argued that in Congress, conservatives are winning some pro-life debates and arguments.
“We now have a bill in the Senate where we’re talking about pain,” Paul said. “I think at the very beginning, life has rights, but we’re getting people to rethink that when a 20-week-old baby who’s still in the womb is squirming to avoid a needle that that baby doesn’t like pain. It makes them uncomfortable. The rest of the debate is more difficult for people who disagree with us, but my goodness, we have a strong argument. Ask them when life begins. They asked Nancy Pelosi a couple years ago when life begins, and she was so befuddled by it, she looked like a deer in the headlights and that she had just grown weight on us because she didn’t want to get into that. But once life begins, it has rights. And if I have a six-pound baby, I think it’s hard for them to say that it doesn’t.”
Paul went even further a moment later, saying that “a civilization cannot long endure that doesn’t respect life from the very beginning to the very last breath.”
“When we talk about freedom or liberty people say that can get carried away, you can’t have too much of that. I tell people though that the fabric of our country though wasn’t just liberty and freedom. It was liberty and freedom and tradition,” Paul said.
After Paul spoke for several more minutes, he led the entire group in singing “How Great Thou Art,” the Christian gospel song.
Paul’s position on life issues is something that’s almost certain to get scrutiny moving into the 2016 presidential GOP primary, in which he’s expected to run.
CNN highlighted another instance where the issue came up during Paul’s trip to South Carolina and North Carolina, at Paul’s Charleston, South Carolina, stop this week. “If life starts at conception, should medicine that prevents conception like Plan B be legal?” a woman asked him at the event.
“I am not opposed to birth control,” Paul responded to the woman, according to CNN, before elaborating: “That’s basically what Plan B is. Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening, and I am not opposed to that.”
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate for the retiring Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat and expected winner in November, introduced Paul at the event. In a brief interview afterwards, Lankford told Breitbart News he’s excited to see Christians get together in events like this.
“There’s groups here from all around the country,” Lankford said. “It’s always interesting that if environmentalists gather, that’s normal. But if Christians get together, everybody gets nervous–and they’re like, ‘that’s a different kind of group.’ It’s not. It’s Americans who are getting together who are expressing their own beliefs and their own passions for people. It’s very reasonable to be able to get together, to pray together, to be able to have this conversation.”
Paul opened his speech by discussing a trip he took to Israel with American Renewal Project president David Lane, walking people through how when he went into the Sea of Galilee he blared the song “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door” from Guns & Roses and other anecdotes from the trip.
About the Israel trip, Lane said it convinced him Paul’s not “anti-Israel” as many in the foreign policy establishment like to say.
“Rand came into a South Carolina ‘Pastors and Pews’ event two and a half years ago, whenever it was, and that’s the first time I met him and I said ‘they say you’re anti-Israel,'” Lane said in an interview with Breitbart News after the event. “And he said ‘I’m not anti-Israel’ and I said ‘that’s what they say.’ He said nope. I asked if he’d ever been to Israel and he said no, so I said ‘I’m going to take you, your wife and your three boys with 53 people to Israel on a spiritual tour.’ It was a tremendous trip and it changed his boys’ life and his life. It was that great.”
Lane added that the trip “strengthened” Paul’s pro-Israel stances. “I wouldn’t say he’s ‘anti-Israel,'” Lane said. “I would say his relationship when we went to Israel because of the impact was strengthened. Sen. Paul would define himself as a born-again Christian. When we went to Israel, we spent three or four days in the Galilee area up in the north and 95 percent of Jesus’s miracles were in the Galilee area, and then we went out in Jerusalem.”