During a commencement address at Liberty University, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush accused President Barack Obama of being small-minded and intolerant on issues of “religious freedom.” Bush told the audience:
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. Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience – and in a free society, the answer is no.
Bush did not specifically discuss gay marriage in his address, but he did make a reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor Catholic charity, who took their case to the Supreme Court fighting for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Bush exclaimed:
You might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother – and I’m going with the Little Sisters.
Bush made his remarks at Liberty University, the fundamentalist Southern Baptist private university founded by the late evangelist Jerry Falwell. Liberty University is also the location where Texas right-wing Senator Ted Cruz made his official announcement that he was running for President. Visiting the college has become an obligatory stop for GOP presidential candidates hoping to court Christian evangelical voters, who make up a key component of the Republican primary base.
Jeb Bush calling President Obama “intolerant” while speaking at a school founded by Jerry Falwell is beyond ironic. Reverend Falwell was infamous for trying to establish a theocracy in the United States, insisting that the nation should be governed by Biblical principles as he understood them. Falwell also blamed gays, feminists and “abortionists” for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
That Jeb Bush would pander to Christian bigots at Liberty University, and then figuratively turn the world upside down by accusing President Obama, rather than Falwell’s disciples, of intolerance is a testament to how weak Mr. Bush is as a leader.
Jeb Bush will not stand up for the rights of American citizens to be free from the theocratic directives of religious fundamentalists. Instead, he embraces the Religious Right’s bizarre persecution complex, and he insists that denying them to the right to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and women of reproductive age, is somehow a form of intolerance. That kind of sophistry might fool a room full of Christian evangelicals at Liberty University, but it isn’t likely to convince the rest of America. They recognize intolerance when they see it, and it is far more visible in Bush’s address to Liberty University than it is in the Obama White House.