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Sen. Cruz: ‘To Attack Religious Liberty is to Attack the Dignity of a Person’

Chairs Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution hearing on threats to religious freedom in the United States and around the globe

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution, on Tuesday chaired a hearing titled: “Threats to Religious Liberty Around the World.” The hearing focused on examining the threats against religious liberty within the United States and by oppressive regimes worldwide. During the hearing, Sen. Cruz asked witness Dr. Rev. Bob Fu, President of China Aid, to share his personal experience of being persecuted by the Communist Party in China for his religious beliefs, and concluded the hearing by warning that the persecution of communities of faith precedes the erosion of all freedoms.

“I think the Constitution draws some bright lines,” Sen. Cruz said. “And so, I do not think the federal government should be able to force Catholic nuns or Priests for Life to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and others. I think that violates their free exercise rights. I do not think the government should be able to force Jehovah’s Witnesses to say the Pledge of Allegiance because that’s contrary to their faith. I’m quite happy to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But, if their faith says otherwise, they have a right to live according to their faith. I’m quite confident that the government doesn’t have the power to force Orthodox Jews, or to force Seventh Day Adventists to work on the Sabbath. They have a right to exercise their faith. I’m quite confident that the federal government doesn’t have the power to force observant Muslims to eat pork. We have a right to exercise our faith, to live according to our faith. And, I think what you said very powerfully Dr. Fu, is a government powerful enough to force someone else to violate their faith, to violate their conscience, is powerful enough to force you to violate your faith and your conscience. And we should protect the rights of every American.” 

Watch Sen. Cruz’s opening remarks here. Full transcript below:

“Let me begin by thanking everyone for attending, thanking each of the witnesses for being here. The topic before us is an issue of great importance: our right to religious liberty, and how it is in danger around the world, and here at home.

“Abroad, there are few rights both so important and yet so commonly disregarded by tyrannical regimes as the rights of conscience. And at home, we see that religious liberty and conscience rights are falling out of favor with an increasingly intolerant segment of the media, the academy, and the entertainment industry. 

“These developments should trouble Americans across the political spectrum. It wasn’t all that long ago that religious liberty was an area of bipartisan agreement. It was an issue that brought us together, Republicans and Democrats. Only 25 short years ago, then-Representative Chuck Schumer and Senator Ted Kennedy introduced, and a unanimous House and near-unanimous Senate passed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was signed into law by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. This landmark legislation reflected the strong, the overwhelming bipartisan respect for our fundamental religious freedoms. But, how things have changed in 25 years. We saw in the prior Congress our Democratic colleagues voting on a party line vote to gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed with such overwhelming support just 25 years earlier.

“And the threats to these freedoms, to our religious liberty, both in the United States and around the world, are never ceasing. We need candor and we need resolve if we are going to identify and stop these abuses. I’m glad then that this committee has assembled an experienced set of witnesses, who can speak authoritatively about the conditions, the motivations, and the harms that surround religious persecution.

“The space in which it is deemed acceptable to practice one’s faith shrinks potentially each and every day. And, it’s become harder and harder to have an honest conversation about what it means for Americans and the state of American liberty across the board.

“Many have forgotten exactly why religious liberty is protected, have forgotten the painful consequences that scar a man’s soul when the right to free exercise is suppressed and the right to conscience abused. We have forgotten what’s lost, what’s at stake, in these political skirmishes about suppressing a faith that is different from your own. 

“For all of our nation’s troubles, the United States inherited a rich tradition of religious liberty that still has not yet faded from the public mind. There’s been some erosion to be sure. But many of our cultural and constitutional barriers protecting our fundamental right to worship ‘God Almighty’ according to our faith, according to our conscience -- and to live according to that faith and conscience -- many of those barriers still remain firm. 

“All across the globe, people suffer under tyranny. Either their government or forces emboldened by it muzzle, harass, terrorize, imprison, and even kill in order to stifle an alternative religious voice. Their stories are heartbreaking: Men and women, imprisoned. Houses of worship burned. Congregations forced to register with the government. Minority religions taxed into poverty. People of faith being treated as second class citizens, denied even the right to participate in the market as an equal player, all because of what and how they believe. 

“Tyrannical states seek to abolish religions altogether, to co-opt them into a state-approved form, or to list a slate of state-approved congregations.  We see some of the world’s most cruel despots stamping out, or trying to stamp out disfavored religions -- from North Korea to Iran to China.

“This hearing came together because there is a lot all of us can learn. The persecution of communities of faith abroad can be addressed in a way free from the political baggage of our debates here at home. And the breadth and intensity of this issue illustrates what’s at stake. 

“We cannot pretend that violations of religious liberty are a victimless act. Nor can we ignore that far too often it is a precursor to other acts of violence, intimidation, and tyranny.

“The purpose of today’s hearing is to learn what happens when an assault on religious liberty reaches its logical conclusion. To attack religious liberty is to attack the dignity of a person. It is to deny him or her equal citizenship and to erode that which makes us free. The consequences of doing so are pervasive and acute. And we must remain vigilant to ensure that the same does not happen here at home.” 

Watch the full hearing here.