Ted Cruz-ing for a bruising

Posted at 3:32 PM, Apr 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-04 09:55:59-04

Perhaps by the standards of Republicans who goof around with running for president, Senator Ted Cruz’s remarks about gay marriage this week weren’t that bizarre. But that’s about the lowest bar there is in politics.

I mean, here’s what one-time GOP presidential candidate and former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann posted on Facebook this week about the Iran deal:

“With his Iran deal, Barack Obama is for the 300 million souls of the United States what Andreas Lubitz was for the 150 souls on the German Wings flight. A deranged pilot flying his entire nation into the rocks. After the fact, among the smoldering remains of American cities, the shocked survivors will ask, why did he do it.”

By contrast, Cruz’s remarks in Iowa on Wednesday were tame, simple McCarthy-ite distortions. Cruz, like most of the GOP presidential hopefuls (but unlike most every big business in the state), loved Version #1 of Indiana’s so-called religious freedom law.

"We're seeing in the news right now a lot of noise because the state of Indiana bravely stood up and passed a law defending religious liberty, Cruz said. “I’ll say this: I will commend the state of Indiana for doing the right thing."

But then Cruz, whose wife worked for Goldman Sachs, #74 on the Fortune 500, until a few weeks ago, jumped off the wall:

"The Fortune 500 is running shamelessly to endorse the radical gay marriage agenda over religious liberty, to say: 'We will persecute a Christian pastor, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi.  Any person of faith is subject to persecution if they dare disagree, if their religious faith parts way from their political commitment to gay marriage. The Fortune 500 has cast their lot in with that, but sadly, a whole lot of Republican politicians are terrified of this issue.”

Details, details: There is no possible interpretation of any version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) considered by Arkansas, Indiana or any other state in the union that would interfere with how any member of the clergy or any religious institution addressed gay marriage, gay rights or gay anything.

And if Cruz was just referring to the Fortune 500, there is of course no evidence that they have persecuted Catholics, Christians or Jews over gay marriage. In about 20 states, in fact, there are no laws protecting LGBT people from employment discrimination. It’s make-believe religious McCarthyism, Cruz-style.

Then again, I guess it isn’t as bad as what Michele Bachmann wrote.

To be fair, there’s distorted rhetoric on the other side of Indiana-Arkansas arguments, too. 

The most ubiquitous offender is the charge that the unamended RFRA laws provided a “license to discriminate” against LGBT members of the community. That is hyperbolic and not helpful.

What the laws would have done is given individuals and businesses the ability to use religious freedom as a possible defense if charged with discrimination; courts would then decide. 

It’s worth noting that the RFRA laws, would have given the same defense to parties accused of discriminating against women, Muslims, Christians, Jews and even Yankees fans for that matter. 

The intent of the legislatures may have been to give religious conservatives a way out of treating LGBT people equally, but a whole lot of discrimination could conceivably be justified.

Remember, in the momentous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court allowed a company to discriminate against women based on the federal RFRA.

The “license to discriminate” line is a typical political twist of the truth. Cruz just made up the whole “persecute a Christian pastor” conspiracy and started punching. His campaign could be a real bruiser for the Republican party.

[Also by Dick Meyer: Downsize the American campaign season]

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