A Southern Baptist Convention seminary president has been named to a Religious Liberty Advisory Council created by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is part of a 19-member group announced Feb. 29 to guide policies to reverse what the Cruz campaign termed “unprecedented attacks on freedom both at home and abroad.”
“Religious liberty is the first freedom guaranteed to Americans under the Constitution, and ensuring the protection of that right has been a priority my entire adult life,” Cruz said in a campaign press release. “Increasingly, renegade government officials seek to coerce people of faith either to act in a manner that violates their faith or forfeit their career. When I am elected president that will change. It is time for our liberties to be respected in Washington. The right to religious liberty built America, and denying that right is both un-American and morally wrong.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, will serve as the council chair. Other members include entrepreneur brothers David and Jason Benham, who lost their HGTV television show after being criticized as anti-gay; religious broadcaster and longtime Southern Baptist pastor Richard Lee; Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; First Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
The news release says inclusion on the council should not be construed as endorsement. Patterson previously expressed admiration for the Texas senator in December after attending a private gathering with Cruz that Patterson described as “frankly, the finest presentation I ever heard from a candidate.” Door prizes at a recent Men’s Game Banquet on the Southwestern Seminary campus included a shotgun signed by Cruz.
Monday night Cruz capped his pre-Super Tuesday campaign with a rally at Houston Baptist University, a school aligned with both the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Baptist General Convention of Texas and led by former Baylor University President Robert Sloan.
“Look, Houston is my home,” Cruz told reporters. “I’m a graduate of Second Baptist High School.”
Cruz said it was a thrill to “be here today at HBU with so many tremendous friends and supporters, so many people from Houston who backed my campaign when nobody thought it was a prayer.”
On Sunday Cruz attended services at Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., the congregation led by Southern Baptist Convention Ronnie Floyd.
According to local media, Floyd told churchgoers that Cross Church would welcome any candidate of any party to its services and that Cruz’ attendance was not to be construed as an endorsement. Cruz is a member in good standing of First Baptist Church in Houston, a Southern Baptist congregation.
Party frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the big winners on Super Tuesday, but Cruz won primary elections in Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska. The Washington Post dubbed Cruz March 2 as perhaps “the last, best hope for conservatives to stop Donald Trump.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won the Minnesota caucus, his first state thus far in the primary season.