TIME Politics 2016 Election Andrea MoralesGetty Images Demonstrators protest during a press conference by the Human Rights Campaign on the steps of the Arkansas State Capital in Little Rock, Ark. on April 1, 2015.
Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats had just one question for the four presidential hopefuls gathered in the chapel at Iowa Wesleyan University: How would they preserve religious liberty?
Its an idea as old as the country, but for the 600 people in the audience and social conservatives elsewhere in Iowa, religious liberty is fast becoming a new litmus test for Republican presidential candidates, thanks to a recent uproar over religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas.
Hosted by Vander Plaats Family Leader organization, the event Thursday was designed to make Iowa ground zero on the issue. For their part, the candidates responses showed broad agreement that religious freedom in general and Christianity in particular are under assault from the federal government.
It is wrong for our government to discriminate against Christians, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the crowd at Iowa Wesleyan, listing off a litany of alleged sins, from requirements that employer healthcare plans include contraceptive coverage to anti-discrimination laws that dont allow businesses to reject work on same-sex weddings. It is wrong for our government to force these businesses to choose between going out of business or violating our sincere beliefs.
The event, which also featured former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, capped a day of GOP candidates scurrying to drive up their support with evangelical voters. Earlier in the day theyalong with Texas Sen. Ted Cruzattended a homeschooler conference hosted by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators in the state capital.
The last few weeks have been heartbreaking with what weve seen in Indiana and Arkansas, Cruz told the roomful of about 1,000 homeschooling parents and children. Weve seen religious liberty under assault.
Religious liberty, Vander Plaats said, will be the key issue of the 2016 campaign in Iowa.
The gatherings drew little in the way of disagreement. I look at them not as opponents, but as colleagues, Huckabee said of his fellow contenders at the evening summit. Perry opened his speech at the Family Leader praising Santorum as a national leader of the pro-life movement and Jindal for his efforts on job promotion at home.
But beneath the agreement was the hard reality that all five hopefuls are depending on the same united social conservative bloc to bring them over the finish line, and right now it is split between all of them as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Originally posted here:
Religious Liberty Becomes the Byword Among Iowas Social Conservatives