Michael Cromartie (“the Crom” to me for 30 years now) is the most significant person in Washington DC that you’ve never heard of. And that’s just the way he likes it. Not because he’s a backroom K Street wire puller from the shadows of House of Cards. To the contrary: he is the rarest thing you can find in Washington: a truly honest broker; a person of faith, understated on the surface because it is very deep underneath; someone who treats everyone with utmost generosity and magnanimity. In a town of towering egos, he has none; in a town a rancid self-promotion, he exemplifies perfect New Testament humility. He commands total respect from everyone that knows him (and just about everybody in Washington does know him), and you won’t find a single person who has a bad word to say about him.
He runs the Faith Angle Forum out of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which brings together secular journalists and leading religious figures in an effort to help demystify the wide world of faithful Americans who the mainstream media otherwise treat with ignorant condescension. Back in 2013 Christianity Today did a very nice feature about Mike—calling him “The Shepherd.” Most of it is behind a subscription firewall, but the first three available paragraphs give you the full flavor of it.
Today Mike did something I don’t think he’s ever done before: he endorsed Marco Rubio for president. You may have seen Rubio’s recent eloquent defense of religious liberty to a hostile questioner in New Hampshire. I think this may have tipped Mike to make his endorsement. Here’s Mike’s statement:
Like many Americans, I have been attending closely to the positions and debates of the candidates in the current Republican primaries. I have formed strong opinions of many of them but I have concluded that the most able, qualified, principled, theologically astute, and electable candidate today is Senator Marco Rubio.
I support him for many reasons but here are a few: his clear commitment to restoring America’s reputation and standing in the world, his plans to revitalize our national defense, his “Jack Kemp style” commitment to elevating the lives of everyone via robust economic growth that promotes broad-based economic opportunity, to his firm but compassionate reset of our flawed immigration policies, and because of his inspirational and optimistic embodiment of the American spirit and story (especially embodied in his own family history).
But above all else, I support him for his firm and stalwart commitment to the protection of religious liberty, and his ability to publicly express, in a persuasive and thoughtful way, the basic elements of his own Christian faith. These are particular concerns of mine, arising out of the work I do, and I find Senator Rubio meets these concerns in a refreshing and wholly praiseworthy way. And I find that he does so in a far more consistent and convincing way than his opponents in either party.
I served for six years on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The concerns of the Commission were the all too numerous examples of religious persecution of people of all faiths, internationally, around the globe. Those concerns remain as timely and urgent as ever today. But those same concerns have now become a hotly contested topic in our domestic politics as well.
Religious liberty is not merely the right to believe but also the right to live out those beliefs in every aspect of our lives. The free exercise of religion includes the fundamental right to share those beliefs with others, to instill those values in your children, and to allow those beliefs to guide your life and work. Religious liberty is the cornerstone of all our civil liberties. It protects individuals, business owners, religious hospitals, charities, and parochial schools. But the current administration has imposed a narrow view of what it means to be religious. It has imposed a contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient mandate that violates the religious consciences of many religious believers in America. If the government can impose such violations of belief upon persons, or religious institutions, living out their sincere religious convictions, what can it not do?
In the Senate, Marco Rubio has led the Congressional effort to reverse the current administration’s unconstitutional HHS mandate by helping author the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012. He has been a champion of the First Amendment Defense Act, which protects religious institutions from government officials revoking their tax status and forbids discrimination against churches and civil-society groups in distribution of federal grants.
On the international level, he has advocated often on behalf of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians seeking expedited asylum to the United States. He has brought attention to the persecution of religious minorities in Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He has shined a light, as Co-Chair of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China, on Chinese oppression of religious groups like the Falun Gong, Uyghurs, and Tibetan Buddhists. He also co-sponsored the Frank Wolf Act, which takes steps to protect the rights of people of faith abroad, especially Christians and other religious minority groups facing extensive persecution and abuse.
Religious believers and advocates of religious liberty need a friend and ally in the White House. I believe the best candidate on this issue (among many other issues) is Senator Marco Rubio.
I suspect—but don’t know for a fact—that Cromartie made this public endorsement in part to offset Jerry Falwell Jr.’s foolish recent endorsement of Trump. I suppose I could ask Mike, but I’m sure he’d say something like “You might very well think so; I couldn’t possibly comment.” Mike doesn’t have the public visibility of Falwell, but his endorsement will not go unnoticed among the influencers in the religious communities of the country.
P.S. Back in the day, The Crom had an unstoppable jump shot. Just sayin’.