Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told a group of Christian college students that their religious liberty was under attack, but the likely 2016 presidential candidate assured them he had experience fighting back against the atheist hordes.
“These are troubled times, and religious liberty – the very first liberty in the bill of rights, the very first protection we have – has never been more imperiled than it is right now,” Cruz said Wednesday during a speech at Liberty University.
The senator’s father made similar remarks late last year to students at the Virginia university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
The younger Cruz told students an anecdote about his role in the successful U.S. Supreme Court defense of a Ten Commandments monument donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles and placed on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.
“It’s been there since 1961, until an individual plaintiff – an atheist, a homeless man – filed a lawsuit seeking to tear down that monument,” Cruz said. “I was honored to defend that monument, (and) we went all the way to the Supreme Court.”
The court ruled 5-4 in the 2005 to allow the monument to remain in the Van Orden v. Perry case, which Cruz had appealed to the higher court as Texas solicitor general.
Before arguments began in the court, Cruz told the students, U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who was representing Texas, leaned over and said something to him and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
“He whispered in a loud voice, ‘We figured out a way that we’re going to win this case,’ so obviously the attorney general and I were pretty interested to hear what this was, since we had two minutes until the arguments started, and Paul said in a whisper, ‘We’re going to argue that the Ten Commandments are international law,’ and it worked,” Cruz said.
The court ruled that the display was permitted on government property due to its historical significance, but on the very same day the court struck down a Kentucky law that would have required a Ten Commandments display in every public school classroom.
Cruz also told the students he had successfully defended a religious reference in the Pledge of Allegiance against atheists.
“The words, ‘one nation under God,’ you’ll remember in California, another atheist filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down the Pledge of Allegiance, and the federal court ordered the Pledge of Allegiance struck down,” Cruz said. “We went to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of all 50 states, defending the words,’ one nation under God,’ and we won.”
The court dismissed that case, ruling that plaintiff Michael Newdow did not have legal standing to sue on his daughter’s behalf because he was not the girl’s custodial parent.
Cruz told the Christian students he had defended the constitutionality of a cross dedicated to World War I veterans and erected in 1934 at the Mojave Land Preserve, which is administered by the National Park Service.
“The ACLU had filed a lawsuit seeking to tear down that monument, the federal district court ordered the monument taken down, (and) the court of appeals ordered the monument taken down,” Cruz said. “We went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and what the federal courts had said is that you could not gaze on the image of a cross on federal land. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of over 3 million veterans, defending the Mojave Desert veterans memorial, and we won 5-4.”
The U.S. Supreme Court did reverse in 2004 the lower court’s ruling, but the justices sent the case back to the federal district court for further settlement.
The U.S. Congress had arranged a land swap the previous year, and a federal court approved a 2012 settlement to a lawsuit filed by the conservative Christian Liberty Institute and Cruz, who worked for a private firm, and the cross was replaced in November of that year.