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The United States is the only country in the world built on "the word of God," the father of a Republican presidential candidate said at the World Congress of Families on Wednesday, but the nation has been straying further from that foundation for nearly a century.
Now, secular humanism has taken its place, said the Cuba-born Rev. Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and director of Grace for America, a movement whose motto is: "Empowering the faithful to restore the family."
The Christian pastor gave a fiery sermon at Salt Lake City's Grand America Hotel detailing the country's downward spiral, beginning with the Communist Manifesto, running through the Humanist Manifesto in 1933 that educator John Dewey signed, through the end of public school prayers and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
"Since then, 8 million babies in America alone have been murdered through abortion," the passionate pastor screamed into the microphone. "The blood of those millions cry out to God."
The final item in this litany, he said, was the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the land.
"That decision," Cruz bellowed to wild applause from the large audience in the giant ballroom, "goes to the heart of the destruction of the family."
Left unchecked, he said, "it could destroy America."
Peppering his remarks with scripture, the pastor also scolded Christian churches for "hiding behind their pulpits ... scared of politics."
In essence, such believers are just as guilty as the humanists, he said, quoting Proverbs: "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord."
Cruz praised Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples, insisting it went against her religious principles.
"She violated no law," he declared. "This is an attack against Christianity."
Believers no longer can "be silent," Cruz said, crescendoing to his conclusion. "We are ambassadors for Christ, God's representatives on Earth. ... We need to restore America in his voice."
Thousands in the hall jumped to their feet in thunderous and sustained applause.
About 15 members of Mormons Building Bridges, a group seeking to strengthen LDS-LGBT ties, attended Cruz's speech and respectfully raised some issues with his pronouncements.
"Though I have found many commonalities with some of the participants here," said Bridges' Chad Smith, "I watched with morbid curiosity during the question-and-answer period as homosexuality was linked with pedophilia and Cruz didn't bat an eye at that. I'm a straight Mormon male in a family with two biological children, and I believe in the inclusion of all families and in the value of commitment and raising healthy, moral children.
"But, according to Cruz, not only is there no way the LGBT community can be involved in strengthening the family," Smith added, "but there's no way non-Christians can be involved either."
The pastor was "in his own echo chamber, not interested in building bridges with others though some at this conference clearly are," the Draper dad said. "But he's actively trying to say only heterosexual Christians will be able to be good people and build a good society."
Smith's wife, Wendy Young Smith, agreed with Cruz's mandate that "silence is not an option," but from an opposite point of view.
"Those who support inclusive families feel exactly the same way," she said. "We need to speak out."
Jill Rowe, a Mormon mother of six, heard traces of her former self in Cruz's words and in the audience reaction.
"I was exactly where these participants are," Rowe said. "I believed all this rhetoric."
But now that she knows one of her children is gay, "I am so different," she said, "and isolated from this conversation."
Cruz's speech left her feeling "empty," she said, and unsure where she or her child fits in his world.