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Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, And The Minister Who Thinks It’s Okay To Kill Gay People

Mike Huckabee Ted Cruz

Two Republican candidates for President, and one who just dropped out of the race last night, spent a weekend recently cozying up to a Pastor who believes the Bible tells us that it is acceptable to kill people simply because they are gay or lesbian:

Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee spoke at a conference in Des Moines called “Freedom 2015: National Religious Liberties Conference,” a two-day event that began last Friday. Now, that doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, my colleagues at the Cato Institute and I have recently defended the rights of Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the bakers and photographers who don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings.

But this conference was about something far different from liberty, although you wouldn’t know that from bland media coverage like this CBS News article. So it’s a good thing that The Daily Beast and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC picked up the story, with video from People for the American Way’s RightWingWatch.

The conference was organized by Kevin P. Swanson, a minister in Colorado and host of the Generations Radio Show. Swanson is part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the far-right fundamentalist Christian Reconstructionism movement, which author Walter Olson wrote about at length in 1998. Swanson gave the conference’s opening and closing talks and interviewed Cruz, Jindal, and Huckabee. And in his closing keynote address, Swanson ranted at length about topics that would hardly be characterized as religious liberty:

YES! Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. YES! Romans Chapter 1, Verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words, not mine! And I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God. And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.

To be sure, he did say that “civil leaders” should not apply the death penalty today, not until the culture has changed and gays have been put on notice that they must repent or be put to death. Thanks for small favors, I suppose. But it’s also worth noting that at least two other speakers at the conference likewise have advocated the death penalty for gay people.

Callum Borchers at The Fix wonders why this hasn’t received much attention outside places like MSNBC:

Swanson, the director of the Generations with Vision ministry in Elizabeth, Colo., and host of an online radio program, is no run-of-the-mill opponent of same-sex marriage. He’s known among evangelicals for, at the very least, suggesting that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to make homosexual behavior punishable by death.

The Web site Right Wing Watch (whose political persuasion is pretty self-explanatory) has made a habit of tracking Swanson’s statements on the subject over the years. At the conference, Swanson was a keynote speaker and interviewed each of the three candidates onstage. In his remarks, Swanson said this:

Romans chapter 1, verse 32. The apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death — his words, not mine. And I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God. And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the word of God.

(…)

Swanson also said this:

Do you advocate for our civil leaders to do this today? And my answer is no. But why? Here’s why: Because that’s not such a big deal. … The discussion concerning the capital punishment of homosexuals is nothing, is not all that important when contrasted with hellfire forever. You say, ‘Why wouldn’t you call for it?’ I say it’s because we need some time for homosexuals to repent.

 (…)

Swanson’s sharing the stage with three Republican presidential candidates has received scant coverage from what the candidates themselves call the “mainstream media.” Why?

One simple explanation is that Cruz, Jindal and Huckabee aren’t front-runners and are therefore getting less media coverage, in general. Jindal and Huckabee were relegated to the “kiddie table” debate on Tuesday, and Cruz is in fourth place and flying somewhat below-the-radar in the GOP primary race. If the trio appearing with Swanson had been Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), things might be different.

Still, Cruz isn’t so out of it that he’s immune to criticism. Plus, his father, conservative activist and pastor Rafael Cruz, was also a speaker at the religious liberties conference, adding another layer of connection.

Borchers goes on to note that Swanson isn’t really very well known outside of the evangelical community and suggests, not unfairly, that it’s possible that Jindal, Cruz, and Huckabee weren’t aware of the comments he’s made over the years. Notwithstanding the fact that I have been highly critical of all three of these candidates many times, I will admit that this is not an unfair point and perhaps suggest that someone should ask their campaigns just how aware they were of Swanson’s controversial comments prior to agreeing to speak at his conference. After all, if they really weren’t aware of what he had said in the past, and he didn’t say anything resembling these remarks while they were present last weekend, then they can hardly be held responsible for things he said in the past that they were not aware of and would never endorse if they had been aware of them.

It strikes me, though, that there are two problems with this explanation.

The first thought is that the idea that Presidential candidates agree to speak at events without having at least some general idea of who else will be there and what they have said in the past seems implausible to me. Perhaps that was true in the past when it wasn’t always easy to make oneself aware of the past of someone you might be sharing a stage with, but it’s hard to believe in an age when all you really need to do is type someone’s name into Google and you’ll find out all you need to know, and many things you probably didn’t want to know. A campaign that doesn’t do that kind of due diligence before an event is, quite honestly, committing the kind of political malpractice that makes one wonder how competent a campaign actually is. Such things do happen even in the Internet age, of course, but at some point you’d think campaigns would learn the lesson that you ought to research the backgrounds of the people your candidate is interacting with if only to avoid an embarrassing photograph later on down the road.

The second thought is the fact that, to this day, Republicans continue to attempt to attack President Obama based on his associations, real and imagined, with controversial figures. The most prominent of these, of course, was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Pastor of the church in Chicago that President Obama attended who had a long history of making controversial statements that proved to be enough of a problem for President Obama during the 2008 Presidential campaign that he was forced to repudiate him not just once, but twice, during the course of the campaign. Similar issues were raised, and continue to be raised by many on the right over the President’s alleged associations with Bill Ayres, a former member of the Weather Underground who was apparently somehow involved in the beginning of Obama’s political career. Finally the more conspiratorial minded people on the right, including apparently Ben Carson, have tried to link Obama to Frank Marshall Davis, an activist who has been alleged to have ties to the U.S. version of the Communist Party and who has been claimed to be everything from the real author of Obama’s book Dreams From My Father (although sometimes it is claimed that Ayers had that role) to Barack Obama’s “real” father. If conservatives believe that Obama should have been scrutinized because of connections to these men, then why should Cruz, Jindal, and Huckebee get a free ride for their apparent association with a man who thinks it would be morally acceptable, and indeed may be a Biblical requirement, to kill gay people?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Cruz and co can always claim that adjudicating deviant sexual behavior is a traditional state function, and as such they don’t have to take a stand on it, running for federal office as they are.

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  2. wr says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that all Democrats have to start calling for the execution of homosexuals. Otherwise the Republicans will use this agains us, and then they’ll do terrible things like call for the execution of homosexuals.

    Oh, and we should drop a nuclear bomb on San Francisco, just to show how much we hate the gays.

    This message brought to you by the new and improved Michael Reynolds.

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  3. bookdragon says:

    Why do they get a pass?

    Because advocating killing gay people in the name of their extremist version of the faith is considered acceptable by far too many of their supporters. (And none of these people will ever be tarred as terrorists even if some of their followers eventually take the Eric Rudolph route and actually kill people).

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  4. Pete S says:

    We have seen several times in this primary campaign an assumption made that one or more of the candidates have finally done something so offensive and outrageous that their campaign will suffer. None of these have come through. Why would this be any different? At this point the only political malpractice would be to assume that Republican base voters could be offended by literally anything except being called liberal.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    As fourth in the polls, Cruz is hardly below the radar. They get a pass mostly because the supposedly liberal MSM wouldn’t touch this stuff with a ten foot pole. They are too fearful of pressure from RW groups and of being accused of being anti-religious. Also, they don’t understand any of this stuff. For them, religion is their Methodist of Catholic parents. People like Swanson and Cruz’s father are outside the MSM’s DC/NYC known universe. He doesn’t really mean it, it’s just metaphor or exaggeration. Nobody’d really kill gay people.

    And maybe it is a little extreme to say they’d kill gays. The Ugandan “kill the gays” bill that RW US religionists pushed hard for did finally back down to life imprisonment.

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  6. C. Clavin says:

    @wr:
    Ouch….

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  7. Facebones says:

    They get a pass mostly because the supposedly liberal MSM wouldn’t touch this stuff with a ten foot pole.

    Yep. The media is so scared about being painted as liberal and anti-religion, they don’t look very closely at this kind of thing. At least until it explodes spectacularly, in Duggar kind of way.

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  8. C. Clavin says:

    I referenced this in a comment a few days ago on another thread.
    Personally I think they should have to explicitly answer for this.
    But is that going to ever happen? No. Republicans do not believe in accountability. It’s all free-ride for them. Gadzooks…Bush and Cheney admitted to war crimes and they still walk free…proclaiming they kept us safe.
    John Kerry makes a gaffe and it’s the end of the free world.
    Jindal and Huckabee and Cruz pander to a guy that wants to kill da gayz…and that’s just fine.

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  9. Tillman says:

    Hilariously, Leviticus 20:13 has always condemned male homosexuality specifically, not female. Ancient Jews were surprisingly uninterested (in terms of writing anyway) in two women gettin’ it on. It was probably frowned upon, but you didn’t get called an abomination over it. Much like other modern religious inventions, I’m sure this gay death penalty will be extended to women in a warped spirit of equality.

    I love how they emphasize Paul’s condemning of homosexuality in Romans without noting that he writes multiple times in that text that death is the wage paid for all sin. Homosexuality is a symptom of sin to Paul, not the crime for which they’re being punished. Right after the denunciation of gays (which is 1:27 not 1:32) is 2:1 where he writes,

    “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

    I can see the headline in evangelical newsletters: Is Paul Implying Everyone is Secretly Gay? If you cite the Bible without context, you can prove God is behind anything you want to do, whether charity or genocide.

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  10. Tillman says:

    @Facebones: Religious conservatives have spent every decade since probably the ’80s writing concerned letters to TV stations about any little trespass they perceive. Combine that with a media striving for objectivity, and you get little or no coverage of insane people masquerading as the righteous.

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  11. Ken in NJ says:

    Howdy folks!

    Look, I’ve got several paragraphs of Reverend Wright subject changing, hand-waving, and false equivalencies leftover from a while back, and this looks like a great place to dump them. But I heard you already have a steady supply of that stuff from someone else? I dunno, whatever. I don’t want to step on any toes, so I’ll tell you what – if your usual guy doesn’t deliver, give me a holler and I’ll throw in some free non-sequiters as well

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Tillman:

    If you cite the Bible without context, you can prove God is behind anything you want to do, whether charity or genocide.

    Or with the Koran “prove” that all Muslims believe whatever.

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  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Tillman:

    Hilariously, Leviticus 20:13 has always condemned male homosexuality specifically, not female.

    Not fer nuthin’…but…oh…never mind.

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  14. Kylopod says:

    Keep in mind that Cruz is not shy about expressing his opinions in front of audiences he speaks before. This is the same Cruz who last year went before a group of Arab Christians and told them “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” then when audience members booed him, he later called it a “shameful display of bigotry and hatred.”

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/ted-cruz-booed-israel-comments-110848

    So as long as Cruz–as long as any of these candidates–agrees to speak at an event where the founder believes in killing gays, can’t they at minimum tell the audience they don’t agree with this particular position?

    For the record, I am not suggesting Cruz actually believes that gays should be executed. What is clear is that he doesn’t find that point of view offensive, at least not in anything the way he views a failure to support the State of Israel.

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  15. Hal_10000 says:

    Hilariously, Leviticus 20:13 has always condemned male homosexuality specifically, not female.

    Well, those 1000 wives and concubines of Solomon had to do something to pass the time.

    I’ll be as fair as possible to these three candidates. The conference was on religious freedom and wasn’t actually a “kill the gays” affair. Huckabee, at least, was asked about it, and specifically rejected that idea. Um … let me think …

    Still, i think it’s perfectly fair to ask them about this, preferably at a future debate.

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  16. Franklin says:

    @Ken in NJ: Welcome! Can we get a rain check on that? Might come in handy.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    @Hal_10000: Shouldn’t they do more than just say “meh, I wasn’t all that into that part of it”? Shouldn’t they renounce, denounce and vehemently reject the pastor and the event?

    Republicans were bothered that Barack Hussein Obama went to a preacher who dared use statements like “God damn America!” for rhetorical effect, and the Republicans pilloried him for it. Actually calling for the death of gays and lesbians? That’s at least slightly worse.

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  18. C. Clavin says:

    Speaking of reprehensible sub-humans…
    Here’s George Takeis answer to Jenos’ reprehensible comment, from the other day, that internment camps are perfectly acceptable because Takei turned out OK.
    http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/11/18/9758480/george-takei-roanoke-mayor

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  19. Tony W says:

    @Kylopod:

    then when audience members booed him, he later called it a “shameful display of bigotry and hatred.”

    Cruz is not wrong – but he’s also rarely that self-aware.

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  20. J-Dub says:

    I can see the headlines now, “104 year old man dies in his sleep. Christians blame his death on homosexual act he performed 80 years prior”

    We are all condemned to die. It’s just a matter of when.

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  21. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W: I’m not sure self-awareness has anything to do with it. Republicans seem to have a limited window where they recognize the existence of bigotry against actual minorities. For example, they are hypersensitive to alleged racism by the left against black conservatives. And they talk a lot about anti-Semitism, but always strictly in the context of Israel and its enemies; I’ve rarely seen a Republican take on the anti-Semitism in end-times beliefs lurking behind a lot of so-called Christian Zionism, or for that matter the basically apolitical anti-Semitism of, say, a Mel Gibson. Cruz himself came perilously close last week to saying only Christians are qualified to be president, so it’s hard for me to take his protestations against Arab anti-Zionism very seriously.

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  22. Tony W says:

    @Kylopod: :) I was doing the old switcheroo on Cruz, calling him the shameful bigot, rather than those he referred to in his quote. Sorry, I think I was too subtle.

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  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: Here’s George Takeis answer to Jenos’ reprehensible comment, from the other day, that internment camps are perfectly acceptable because Takei turned out OK.

    You just can’t stop being a lying crapweasel, can you, Cliffy?

    I said that it was wrong for FDR to lock up Japanese Americans based solely on their nation of origin. I also said that despite that horrid wrong, Takei and a lot of other internees did NOT turn traitor to their adoptive home.

    Here’s the actual comment.
    And here’s me predicting Cliffy’s lying:

    Let me head off Cliffy’s inevitable and all-too-predictable pants-wetting and say no, I am not advocating that we persecute Muslims wholesale. But I am challenging the notion that mistreatment by the US government does not automatically make the subjects rabidly anti-American, because history does not bear that out.

    Even with that, Cliffy, you had to run right out and lie your ass off, didn’t you?

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  24. Jenos Idanian says:

    Similar issues were raised, and continue to be raised by many on the right over the President’s alleged associations with Bill Ayres, a former member of the Weather Underground who was apparently somehow involved in the beginning of Obama’s political career.

    Let me refresh your poor memory, Doug. Bill Ayers was and is an unrepentant domestic terrorist from the 1960s who was involved in several bombings and several deaths who skated on a technicality (his own admission). He was just this guy in Obama’s neighborhood. Who hosted Obama’s first big political event in Ayers’ own home (with his wife, also an unrepentant domestic terrorist). And Obama wrote a glowing review of one of Ayers’ books. And the two headed up a major non-profit whose stated goal was improving Chicago’s public schools, but instead funneled a crap-ton of money to a lot of Ayers’ old compatriots in arms and actually achieved no measurable improvements to the schools.

    So yeah, nothing compared to “gave a speech at an event this nutjob organized,” but still something.

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  25. Very good write-up. I definitely love this website.
    Keep writing!

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