Cruz “is probably the one most people trust to do what he says he would do,” Vander Plaats said.
Before Cruz addressed the Values Voter audience, he attended a press conference organized by the Liberty Institute, a legal group that has defended Christians involved in legal disputes. The group’s leader, Texas attorney Kelly Shackelford, praised Cruz for being involved in religious liberty cases long before his political career.
“Before Sen. Cruz was ever thinking bout running for office … he was one of the best appellate attorneys in the country, and he was donating his time — literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of time — for religious freedom cases,” Shackelford said, noting their work together on legal proceedings around the case of the Mojave Memorial Cross.
Cruz stood with Navy chaplain Wes Modder, who was recently cleared by Navy Personnel Command in a case where he was accused of misconduct for counseling Marines against premarital sex and homosexuality, and with Liz Loverde, a New Jersey college student who said in 2014 that her high school forbade her to create a Christian club.
“These are real people,” Cruz said at the press conference. He spoke of a recent gathering in Iowa that he attended where a crowd of 2,500 heard from nine other individuals in religious liberty disputes. Cruz said the evidence is clear that Christians are being told they cannot exercise their faith.
“For every sneering media reporter who claims there are no threats, look in the eyes of these heroes, one after another after another, who simply stood for their faith and lost their jobs and faced persecution and faced death threats,” Cruz said.
“These threats are real. They’re growing. And yet we will stand and fight to defend our liberty. And I’ll tell you, the worse it gets the more of an awakening you’ll see,” he said.