Over the weekend, GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rick Perry — joined the GOP’s evangelical outreach coordinator Chad Connelly and North Carolina pastor Ron Baity — famous for warning that God would send a disease worse than Ebola in punishment for gay marriage — at a “We Stand With God ” rally in front of the South Carolina state capitol meant to remind elected leaders that there are still people who “stand for God’s definition of family.”
Cruz, unsurprisingly, focused much of his sermon-like speech on claiming that advances in LGBT rights are in fact “persecuting” conservative Christian business owners who refuse to serve LGBT customers. Discussing a few of the people he brought to his persecution-palooza in Iowa earlier this month, he warned the South Carolina crowd that they might be next and that eventually the U.S. will become like Iran, which has imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini.
“This is the world we’re living in,” he said. “If you think your faith is safe, next may be you. Next may be me. Next may be your pastor who preaches the Word from the pulpit. Next may be your sister or brother or mom who volunteers at the pregnancy crisis center. And you want to know how bad it can get, at that rally, we had Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, a Christian pastor, sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for the crime of preaching the Gospel.”
Cruz was introduced by South Carolina Religious Right activist and radio hsot Tony Beam, who claimed that Christianity would soon be criminalized as part of the effort to “get rid of Christians” and establish a dictatorship.
“You know, if you look back and you look through history, there’s a three-step process that’s always resulted in tyranny and dictators,” Beam said, “and that process is this: First comes the demonization of any people you want to get rid of. We saw that start in the 1970s as the church began to be demonized and God’s people were made fun of and it’s continued to today. The next step is marginalization. They take the people they want to get rid of and they push them to the side of the debate and they ignore them. You know, a lot of the national media may ignore us today, but we can’t be ignored because we stand for the sovereign God of the universe.
“And so, after marginalization comes criminalization. And you know we live in a country now that’s tried to criminalize God-fearing believers for trying to run a business to honor God.”
Cruz thanked Beam for the “tremendous” introduction: