- Jeb Bush will deliver the commencement address Saturday at Liberty University, criticizing the Obama administration for being “small minded and intolerant” of religious freedom.
The address comes as the presumed presidential contender seeks to boost up his standing among conservatives and religious evangelicals and excerpts released ahead of the speech by his campaign committee show he will deliver a defense of religion, saying that “whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice, there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action.”
He will tout Christian charity at the school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, saying that “every day in the life of this nation, uncounted people are comforting the lonely, aiding the ill and discouraged, serving the weak and innocent, giving hope to the prisoner, and in every way they know, loving mercy and living with integrity.”
The former Florida governor who converted to Catholicism, also proclaimed he is pro-life in the excerpts, noting that “wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love.”
His remarks are also critical of the Obama administration, accusing it of “supporting the use of coercive federal power. What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it.”
The White House earlier this year said an Indiana law that critics said allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers by invoking “religious freedom” ran contrary to U.S. ideals.
Bush faces considerable competition in the contest for the influential, if not always decisive, voting bloc of evangelical Christians. His visit to Liberty comes as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is popular with evangelical Christians, launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday in Hope, a hometown he shares with former President Bill Clinton, pledging to bring America “from Hope to higher ground.”
The last two Republican nominees gave commencement speeches at Liberty: Mitt Romney in 2012 and Sen. John McCain in 2008. Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, delivered the address in 1991.