Ted Cruz Lies In The Name Of Jesus — And To Drum Up Votes With The Religious Right

Be honest. Does anything the GOP presidential candidates say at this point shock or surprise anyone anymore? They have all had enough screen/page time and exposure for everyone in the world to see them for who they are. Think that’s going to stop them?  The more outlandish, the better they seem to do in the polls.  Using simple logic, one could ascertain that Republican voters are kind of, well, stupid.

Let us take a look at GOP presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz. His hyperbolic topic du jour at a town hall event Dec. 7 in South Carolina was an old standard: Christian persecution. Regardless of the fact that South Carolina’s population is 93 percent Christian, many of us would like to know who is doing the persecuting.  

Cruz, that sly old snakeknows anything to do with Jesus, or anything that portrays the poor old folks as the victim plays very well in the South. We escapees have a term for it — the “Southern Curse.” Feeling mighty propped up, Cruz made the extraordinary claim that he will defend religious liberty because “what kind of country are we living in where…we’re threatening teenage girls with going to jail if they say the name of Jesus?”

Here’s hoping that Cruz realizes that by making the claim to defend religious freedom, in the United States, that means freedom to practice ALL religions, not just his very narrow brand of pseudo-Christianity. I’m not sure what those rules are in Canada, but Cruz might just be confused.

Cruz made the declaration after telling the story of Angela Hildenbrand, a public high school valedictorian who he claims was “threatened with jail if she exercised her right to pray during her graduation speech.”

Cruz has discussed her story as an example of the government’s “war on Christianity.” As he explained, Hildenbrand was initially barred from leading prayer, but attorneys from the Liberty Institute (ultra-fundy extremist group) filed an emergency motion and won an appeal shortly before her graduation. Cruz has named Hildenbrand one of his “religious liberty heroes,” and she appeared beside him on stage in November during his South Carolina Rally for Religious Liberty.

I bet gentle Jesus loves those who bully others in His name to further a political agenda.  Wasn’t that somewhere in the Sermon on the Mount?

Here’s the truth of the matter: Hildenbrand was not threatened with jail for praying. In fact, every part of Cruz’s statement about Hildenbrand is incorrect. Greg Lipper, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who worked on the case, told ThinkProgress in a recent interview.

Here’s the real scoop from ThinkProgress: The family of Corwyn Schultz, one of Hildenbrand’s high school classmates, filed a lawsuit against the Medina Valley Independent School District in 2011, challenging the fact that speakers at the high school graduation would often lead the audience in proselytizing prayers and invocations.

The district court judge sided with the Schultz family, ruling in a preliminary injunction that graduation prayers violate the Establishment Clause.

Lipper explained:

“He said the students could still make religious references in their speeches. They just couldn’t deliver prayers.”

Lipper noted that the injunction was in agreement with a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court has also made with respect to another school district in Texas.

Cruz’s claim that the judge threatened Hildenbrand with jail time is also entirely false, Lipper said.

“There was a reference in the preliminary injunction to enforcement mechanisms, but that was aimed at the school district and not the students. There was no threat of any student getting punished by the court, let alone getting sent to jail.”

At the date of the injunction, Hildenbrand was not even named in the lawsuit — she jumped right in there and added her name as a defendant during an appeals process.

The court found that the prayers were student-initiated and not school-sponsored. Hildenbrand ended up leading the crowd in prayer during the graduation ceremony — Schultz declined to attend — and Hildenbrand has since become a symbol for conservative politicians of what they call the government’s persecution of Christianity.

Lipper commented, “This case has been catnip for presidential candidates for some time,” adding that Newt Gingrich also frequently spoke about the case when he was campaigning for president in 2012.

Lipper continued:

“It makes a superficially appealing talking point if you’re willing to make up things. It’s understandable that they go out of their way to say we’re threatening to send students to jail if they say Jesus. That sounds better than what they actually want, which is government-sponsored Christian prayer.”

So, distilled to its core element, the real story isn’t that sexy; the way Cruz and other Republicans use it and Hildenbrand to lie about religion and persecution is pretty disgusting. And Ted Cruz lies through his teeth, all in the name of Jesus Christ — and drumming up political favor with the religious right-wing. This is how the basic elements of our democracy slowly erode until all we’re left with is a non-citizen leader who wants to wipe his ass on the Constitution, and use the untouchable Jesus/God to impose his beliefs on the entire country. You can’t get much lower than that, can you?

And I also wonder how a teen would be treated in South Carolina if they uttered the name Mohammed or Allah, the Goddess, or even the universe at a high school commencement speech?

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