Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has finally responded to questions about his appearance at a radical anti-gay conference in Iowa last month, claiming in a statement to Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that the conference organizer’s support for the execution of gay people was “not explicit.”
Cruz appeared last month at the misnamed National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, where he courted the support of the conference’s organizer, Colorado-based pastor and radio host Kevin Swanson.
Swanson has long promoted the idea that government should impose biblical law in order to get on the right side of God but, like his fellow Christian Reconstructions, believes that conservatives like himself must change the culture first before the government can begin imposing Old Testament laws such as the death penalty for homosexuality.
The radical pastor explained that view at the end of the Iowa conference, saying that he does not advocate that the government put gay people to death only because gay people have not had enough time to repent for their homosexuality. Before the summit, Swanson repeatedly hailed Ugandan lawmakers for trying to make homosexuality a capital crime.
Swanson, who was joined at the conference by at least two other activists who had previously called for the government to execute gay people, reiterated his view that homosexuality is a death penalty crime before Cruz joined him on stage. Cruz, after Swanson introduced him, declared that “any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”
While Cruz has tried to avoid questions about his attempt to woo Swanson, his campaign finally released a statement to Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, defending his appearance at the event by insisting that Swanson’s call to put unrepentant gay people to death was “not explicit.”
As Maddow pointed out, Swanson’s statements about the death penalty were not the only ones at the conference. One conference speaker, Phillip Kayser, distributed a booklet he wrote arguing that gay people should be killed by the government if they do not renounce homosexuality, listing proper biblical punishments as hanging, stoning and “being thrown off a cliff or dashed on rocks.”
“It is not necessarily news any more that there are people like this on the right, who view homosexuality according to their version of biblically-ordained judicial principles,” Maddow said. “But it is news, it is always news, when people from the purported mainstream of American politics, people who are vying to be the next president of the United States, show up at events like this and speak from the same stage where pastors are justifying the death penalty for gay Americans.”
“For Ted Cruz, he can’t really say he didn’t know what was going on at that conference, and there’s a case to be made that he should be ready to answer some real questions about it,” she added.