Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
On March 29, Ted Cruz and Utah Senator Mike Lee released a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch in which they accuse the Department of Justice of failing to use the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 to prosecute people who interfere with houses of worship.
The FACE Act does criminalize physical obstruction that injures or intimidates anyone who would “exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship.” But its focus was assaults by religious extremists on abortion providers, which had spiked in the late eighties and early nineties.
In March 1993, The New York Times responded to the assassination of Dr. David Gunn, shot in the back as he entered the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services Clinic, by calling for federal legislation that would protect abortion providers:
This murder was the latest escalation in a crescendo of violence by anti-abortion activists. In the name of ‘life,’ the anti-abortion army has bombed or set fire to more than 100 clinics over the past 15 years, invaded more than 300 and vandalized more than 400. . . . It has stalked medical personnel, used their photographs on ‘Wanted for Murder’ posters, forced physicians to wear bulletproof vests and work behind steel shutters. It has also driven many doctors out of their abortion practice.
The Cruz/Lee letter orders the attorney general to provide dates, locations, names of organizations, every discussion, conference or meeting, whether by e-mail, text message, phone, video, or in person, between the DOJ and any abortion clinic, facility or provider, regarding enforcement of the FACE Act. It makes a similar demand regarding the DOJ and religious liberty advocacy groups.
In the parallel requests, the Senators imply that the Justice Department is colluding with abortion providers while ignoring houses of worship.
The letter is another reminder that not since Pat Robertson’s aborted 1988 campaign has an unabashed religious extremist run for the presidency of the United States.
Name a cause advanced by religious extremists and Cruz is there.
Cruz defends the Texas abortion-clinic statute currently before the Supreme Court, the most restrictive assault on women’s reproductive rights written into law. He promises that on his first day in office he will order the DOJ to begin an investigation of Planned Parenthood, based on “horrific videos” that describe the “sale of body parts,” although the selectively edited videos have been discredited and the videographer recently indicted for his conduct by the Republican district attorney in Houston.
On the same day, President Cruz will order the DOJ to end its prosecution of the Little Sisters of the Poor, for the order’s refusal to sign a one-page waiver to allow a separate insurer to provide contraceptives, which the sisters refuse to cover in health care policies for non-religious employees in nursing facilities and other businesses operated by the Roman Catholic nuns. In making his argument, Cruz persistently misrepresents contraceptives as “abortifacients.”
Persecution of Christians is another Cruz obsession; he has created or advanced Christian-extremist falsehoods regarding the Obama administration’s “failure to lift a finger” to assist what evangelicals have come to consider “celebrity prisoners”—American Christians incarcerated by foreign governments.
Homophobia is another pillar of Cruz’s belief system. He leapt to the defense of Dick and Betty Odgaard, the Mennonite couple who sued the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and lost, after refusing to allow a gay couple to book their Grimes, Iowa, for-profit wedding chapel. Cruz has been telling and distorting the Odgaards’ story since they paid a $5,000 fine and signed a consent decree stipulating they would not deny services base on sexual orientation.
The Odgaards, currently featured in a Cruz campaign video, plan to erect 1,000 billboards across Iowa denouncing gay marriage. After the Supreme Court handed down its 2015 ruling requiring state governments to issue same-sex marriage licenses, Cruz, an accomplished lawyer and constitutional scholar, said only Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee had to abide by the ruling and other states should ignore it. He is also the Senate sponsor of a bill that would allow states to circumvent the court’s same-sex-marriage ruling.
Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Council includes some of the most extreme social conservatives currently proselytizing intolerance in the name of faith. It is chaired by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT hate group.
And there’s dad. The Rev. Rafael Cruz, who fabricated his pastoral credentials, yet has gone on to become a modern-day Savonarola, eloquently preaching intolerance in two languages, describing gays as “sexual predators” who “want to legalize pedophilia.” His travel expenses are currently covered by the campaign.
Regarding the role of religion in public life, could a President Trump be any worse?