During his commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday, presumptive 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush blistered the Obama administration for its “use of coercive federal power” to restrict religious freedom.
He snapped, “Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith. Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience — and in a free society, the answer is no.”
Bush, a Roman Catholic, used the example of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity that successfully challenged the Obama administration over ObamaCare’s mandate that they provide coverage for contraceptives.
He said, “I’m betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing, the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services. You might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother — and I’m going with the Little Sisters.” Bush added, “How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force. It is not only untrue, but it’s also a little ungrateful, to dismiss the Christian faith as some obstacle to enlightened thought.”
Bush also slammed federal judges for “mistaking themselves for elected legislators and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the constitution.” He ripped the idea that one’s religious principles should not inform their decisions, saying:
The mistake is to confuse points of theology with moral principles that are knowable to reason as well as by faith. And this confusion is all part of a false narrative that casts religious Americans as intolerant scolds, running around trying to impose their views on everyone. … Our friends on the left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program.
Despite the fact that Bush declared, “some moral standards are universal,” referring to his anti-abortion stance, he avoided any mention of same-sex marriage as he tried to placate GOP members who are not socially conservative. By contrast, Sen. Ted Cruz, who has already announced his candidacy, said in April in Iowa that if the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationally, it would be “fundamentally illegitimate.” He added of same-sex marriage advocates, “Because of their partisan desire to mandate gay marriage everywhere in this country, they also want to persecute anyone who has a good faith religious belief that marriage is a holy sacrament, the union of one man and one woman and ordained as a covenant by God.”
On Saturday, knowing that the evangelical Christian students at the university are strong supporters of Israel, Bush proclaimed, “Wherever Jews are subjected to the oldest bigotry, we reject those sins against our brothers and sisters — and we defend them.”
He also wove in a reference to his Right to Rise PAC, saying, “Set the standard with your belief that everyone matters, and that everyone has the right to rise.”