DES MOINES, Iowa – GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz (R-TX) closed out a memorable day in Iowa with a massive rally for religious liberty in downtown Des Moines Friday evening. The overflow crowd of 3,000 Cruz supporters gathered to hear the conservative torch bearer draw attention to the persecution of Christian business owners.
It was a theme he had addressed earlier in the day at the Iowa State Fair, first during his 20 minutes on the Des Moines Register soapbox, and later in an attempted media ambush by actress Ellen Page in which the junior Senator from Texas schooled the actress on the finer points of public debating.
The enthusiastic crowd heard Cruz passionately defend the rights of Christian business owners. He was joined on stage by Dick and Betty Odgaard, owners of a wedding chapel business in Grimes, Iowa that was forced to close due to the legal and financial repercussions of their decision not to make their chapel available for a gay wedding.
Cruz reminded the crowd that he argued on behalf of the winning side in two Supreme Court cases involving religious liberty. Both the 2005 Van Orden v. Perry defense of the state of Texas’s right to have a monument to the ten commandments on the grounds of the State Capital (which he argued on behalf of the state as solicitor general), and the 2010 Salazar v. Buono case to preserve the Mojave Desert Memorial Cross (in which he provided assistance to the Liberty Institute) were won on a narrow 5 to 4 vote.
“We’re just one justice away,” Cruz warned, from losing our religious liberties.
“Never have the threats been greater to religious liberty than they are right here and now today,” Cruz added, noting that “these threats are not imagined, they’re not made up.”
“There is a war on faith in America today,” Cruz asserted, which is why who we elect as President in 2016 matters.
Cruz then introduced a video of himself and Dick and Betty Odgaard, filmed on location at their wedding chapel, now ready for the auction block, in Grimes, Iowa.
In an emotionally charged moment, Cruz then introduced the Odgaards, whom he interviewed about their ordeal, as all three sat in a television talk show style format.
They recounted how they loved the wedding business, and its associated floral and catering offerings, and how the business suffered after the gay couple who they did not make the chapel available to for their wedding sued them.
Business dried up, fines were paid, and now, the remaining assets of the business will be auctioned off in October.
Earlier in the evening, event host Bryan English, Iowa state director for Ted Cruz for President, had promised the crowd would “meet people who have experienced things our forefathers could never have imagined.”
“Their conviction about their exercise of religious liberty came into conflict with the government,” he said.
“The point is,” he concluded, “their story is your story. The only difference is it hasn’t happened to you yet.”
Echoing the nation’s founders, English asserted that “our rights come from God, not the government.”
The providential nature of the founding of the American republic was emphasized by Congressman Steve King (R-IA), who told the crowd the first time he ever saw Senator Cruz in person was in 2005 when he went to the Supreme Court to watch the arguments in the Texas Ten Commandments case and Cruz was arguing on behalf of the state of Texas as the then solicitor general.
“I profoundly believe God shaped this nation with his hand,” King told the audience.
The event lasted three hours, and few in the crowd left before it ended.