Live from Des Moines, it’s Ted Cruz

Nebraska attorney Dave Begley continues his series of reports for us on the appearances of presidential candidate in Iowa. Here is his report on the appearance of Ted Cruz yesterday, covered here by the Des Moines Register:

I could not pass up the chance to see the champion college debater and Supreme Court advocate in action, so I drove to see Ted Cruz in Des Moines at the Rally for Religious Liberty. He made a brilliant presentation to his target audience. I was impressed.

Cruz drew on emotion, logic, drama, rhetoric, and related multimedia presentations to drive his message home with great power and effect. Here’s why this rally was so important. The Pew Center reported that in the last Iowa caucus the Evangelical vote was nearly 60 percent. The estimate is that 120,000 Iowans will caucus in February. Cruz may have substantial appeal to that demographic as reflected in the attendance of some 3,000 people last night along with live streaming at home parties throughout the state. At least a dozen pastors attended; one sat right next to me. They are all thought leaders and influencers in their communities. I think that Cruz will come in first or second in Iowa.

Four people two rows behind me tried to disrupt the Senator with a demand for citizenship now. They had a poster. A single security guard nicely escorted them out and the crowd shouted them down with chants of “USA, USA.” One the other side of the stage a guy said something I couldn’t hear and Cruz told him that this wasn’t a town hall and the topic tonight was religious liberty. Nicely done.

Via video a Texas lawyer set the stage for Cruz as the generous and victorious lawyer/warrior when he told how Ted (pro bono) had argued and won the Mojave Desert Cross case and the Texas courthouse Ten Commandments case. Cruz then brought the hammer down when he stated that there are 43 images of Moses and the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court courtroom. Both wins were 5-4. A single vote flips a victory to a loss.

Cruz then set up the straw man. Media claims the threat to religious liberty doesn’t exist. It does and out from behind the curtain Dick and Betty Odgaard of Grimes, Iowa appear. They had a wonderful wedding business that was closed on July 31. Why? In 2013, they refused to allow a gay wedding in their facility as same sex marriage is contrary to their faith. So rather than go against their sincerely and deeply held religious beliefs they have closed the business. Betty said she and her husband have no hate for gays, but they could not go against their religion and allow gay marriages in their building.

Ted asked them, “Why not give in?” Betty: “We could not celebrate a sin.”

The couple then went on to describe the hate and intolerance that have been directed against them. It was properly observed that the Left calls the religious observant intolerant when, in fact, they are the intolerant ones. I also note that the lawsuit was filed the day after they refused the use of their building for the wedding ceremony and that there are plenty of other public accommodations available for the same purpose in the area.

A local radio host next came on stage and played a video of five victims of the culture wars. You know some of their stories: Sweet Cakes Bakery in Oregon, the florist in Washington, a tee-shirt printer, an Army sergeant and the fire chief from Atlanta. There was a brief video introduction and then they all appeared on stage. These are hardworking everyday Americans who have had their lives crushed by government persecution.

I was particularly moved by the woman who formerly owned the bakery. To this day they still get “stuff” in the mail and death threats. The radio guy quipped, “Nothing says tolerance like death threats.” She also nearly cried when she told how people would buy baked goods from her to support her business but asked not to put her company’s sticker on the box. People were afraid to let others know that they backed the Christian bakers.

The fire chief from Atlanta is black and had served in some capacity in the Obama Administration. He wrote a book – in his free time – about male sexuality. He was fired. I imagine the job of chief doesn’t have civil service protection, but I still wonder how the Democrats pulled that one off.

Cruz then came back on stage. He told about how the Solicitor General in the same sex marriage case oral argument conceded that the Bob Jones University case could put the tax-exempt status of religious schools in jeopardy if the schools refused to allow same-sex marriages on campus or refused to provide housing for same-sex married students. The Jesuits would never concede on this. But if the Society of Jesus doesn’t knuckle under then the schools lose their tax-exempt status and gifts are not tax-deductible. Santa Clara has a big enough endowment to survive a ruling like that, but Creighton would be hard pressed. And that possibility similarly threatens all the private religious primary and secondary schools throughout the country.

Cruz repeated a number of times that religious liberty is our first freedom and if we lose it, then the others are to follow. Cruz got big applause when he stated the obvious: America is a Judeo-Christian nation. We need to stand against religious bigotry and intolerance. He also stated that the Planned Parenthood videos were evidence of federal crimes being committed and he will order prosecutions.

His call to action was clear. While there are 90 million Evangelicals, 54 million stayed home last election. We will stay home no longer. On my first day in office, he said, I will issue an executive order that the persecution of religious liberty ends today.

To close he brought out the wife of Pastor Saeed of Boise. He has been in the worst prisons in Iran for three years and has five more to go. His crime? Preaching the Gospel in a Muslim country. He has been beaten and tortured to the point that he needs surgery. Despite all that suffering his wife says he has converted some guards and fellow prisoners to Christianity. A video of his three young kids was played. “Dear President Obama. Bring my dad home.”

Ted’s close: “President Obama. Bring Pastor Saeed home.” Standing ovation.