If you follow politics at all, you probably know Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s major issue stances — he’s anti-LGBT equality, anti-abortion rights, a proponent of free-market economics and an aggressive foreign policy.
But to really kow Cruz’s worldview, it’s important to know his father, mentor, and top campaign surrogate, 76-year-old Rev. Rafael Cruz.
“Rafael Cruz is an extremist,” Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, tells The Advocate. “He is the senator’s role model. Rafael Cruz spoke at the World Congress of Families event in Utah with a gay-bashing lineup of hateful speakers, and he is Ted’s surrogate traveling across the country on the campaign trail bashing gay people. Like father, like son.”
And the elder Cruz, who hit the campaign trail extensively in Ted’s successful run for U.S. senator from Texas in 2012 and is doing so now in his presidential effort, says the things his son — or almost any politician — can’t get away with.
Ted Cruz, for instance, calls the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “lawless” and “fundamentally illegitimate,” but his father says it’s the work of the devil. “The devil overplayed his hand with that decision on June 26,” Rafael Cruz said in a speech last August, predicting that godly Americans will rise up against it. (Watch him say the same thing to Pat Robertson below.)
Among Rafael Cruz’s other antigay greatest hits: At the World Congress of Families event last November, he said gay people want to legalize pedophilia, starting with an effort to strike down age-of-consent laws. Indeed, he has frequently described LGBT people as sexual predators. He has also said marriage equality is part of a government plot to “destroy the concept of God” and establish socialism in the United States.
This is why his son should be president, according to Cruz. In a March interview with a right-wing radio show, shortly after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Rafael Cruz pointed out that Ted will appoint conservative justices to the court and said the appointment of one more liberal will be disastrous.
“One more justice like that,” Cruz said, meaning the court’s four more liberal members, “and we will lose our right to keep and bear arms. We will lose all of our religious freedom. We will see abortion on demand to the day of delivery. We will see the destruction of traditional marriage, and the family is the foundation of society — if the family is destroyed, society will be destroyed.” (Apparently, as much as he hates the marriage equality decision, he doesn’t think it quite finished the job of destroying “traditional marriage.”)
Rafael Cruz seems to have long believed his son was destined for great things. “Essentially his father groomed him for this moment,” conservative Iowa radio talk show host and Ted Cruz backer Steve Deace told The Boston Globe in January, as father and son were campaigning in the state.
“By the time Ted Cruz was 9, his father was providing heavy doses of conservative Christian politics at the dinner table,” wrote Globe reporter Tracy Jan. “By 13, the younger Cruz had memorized the Constitution and through high school toured the state of Texas, delivering speeches on free market economics and the Constitution.”
Rafael Cruz, however, hasn’t always been a conservative Christian. Growing up in Cuba, he opposed President Fulgencio Batista’s right-wing dictatorship and, he claims he even worked with Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow Batista, although he says he never adopted Castro’s communist ideology. Cruz left Cuba before that effort succeeded — in 1957 he escaped the country, reportedly by bribing an official, and ended up in Texas, where he worked his way through the University of Texas, studying math and engineering.
He had an early marriage that ended in divorce. His second wife, Eleanor Darragh, gave birth to Ted in 1970. But the elder Cruz had a drinking problem that led him to desert his wife and son when Ted was a toddler. He returned after becoming a born-again Christian. He and Darragh are now divorced as well.
Rafael Cruz’s “redemption” story resonates with fundamentalist Christian voters (e.g., Kim Davis), and after spending much of his life working for energy companies in the U.S. and Canada, he now touts himself as an ordained minister. His theology goes beyond traditional evangelical and fundamentalist views. He “is an advocate of Christian dominionism, which essentially holds that fundamentalist Christians should take over, well, just about everything,” David Corn wrote in a February Mother Jones article.
In a 2012 sermon quoted by Corn, Cruz said God ordered Adam and Eve to “take dominion over all my creation.” That dominion, the elder Cruz explained, “is not just in the church, that dominion is over every area — society, education, government, and economics.”
Corn described Rafael Cruz as a “freelancing evangelical,” and that pretty much sums it up. He has claimed to be a pastor at a church in Dallas, but there is no record of such an affiliation, according to a Washington Spectator investigation. That investigation also found that the Bible college he claims to have attended doesn’t exist.
However, the conservative Christian crowds he draws apparently haven’t questioned his credentials, and religious right leaders see him as an asset to his son’s campaign. “He’s a clarifying check that Ted’s the real deal,” antigay Iowa activist Bob Vander Plaats told the Globe.
Ted Cruz appears not to have repudiated any of his father’s more outrageous statements and indeed has seldom been confronted about them. He has called his father “a man of deep integrity” and a powerful voice for freedom.
The lack of distance between father and son shows how dangerous a Ted Cruz presidency would be, Smith tells The Advocate. He “lets his father say all the fiery gay-bashing rhetoric, but Ted Cruz will implement that rhetoric in his policies and appointments,” Smith says. “He is the worst candidate in the race, and I have no doubt he will discriminate against gay and transgender people all over the United States if he is elected president.”
“While Donald Trump is disturbing, Ted Cruz is dangerous, especially to LGBT rights,” Smith adds. “We know exactly what we will get if he is elected President of the United States. He will appoint a Supreme Court justice who will attempt to roll back all the gains we have achieved in our community, and we will not pass a national nondiscrimination law. In fact, I know he will use the highest office in the land to discriminate against LGBT people across the United States.”