Former Florida governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush offered a defense of conservative Christian principles and attacked the Obama administration for failing to preserve religious freedom during his commencement address at Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Bush accused the Obama administration of using "coercive federal power" to infringe on the religious rights of Americans.
"What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it. Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith," he said, according to remarks released ahead of the speech. "Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience -- and in a free society, the answer is 'no.'”
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Obama administration could not require closely held corporations to provide insurance coverage of contraception to employees if the employers objected on religious grounds.
Bush converted to Catholicism -- his wife's religion -- two decades ago following a tense period in his marriage. Bush has said in the past that he believes the faith of leaders should shape their decision-making.
"[S]ome moral standards are universal. They do not bend under the weight of cultural differences or elite opinion. Wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love," Bush said on Saturday. "Wherever women and girls in other countries are brutally exploited, or treated as possessions without rights and dignity, we Christians see that arrogance for what it is. Wherever Jews are subjected to the oldest bigotry, we reject that sin against our brothers and sisters, and we defend them."
Liberty University was founded by Jerry Falwell, a former Southern Baptist pastor and religious commentator. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his presidential campaign at the school in March.