Republican presidential hopeful and Advocate Phobie of the Year Ted Cruz is taking political spin to a new level with a campaign video where he blatantly misrepresents the facts surrounding an Iowa venue whose owners were "forced" to close up shop rather than let a same-sex couple hold their wedding there.
Saying that Betty and Richard Odgaard "inspire" him, Cruz claims he is "thrilled to have the chance to tell their story." Especially, it appears, since Cruz's depiction of the couple's story fits neatly into the agenda of the upcoming Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines.
The facts of that story, however, are that the Odgaards, a Mennonite couple who own the Gortz Haus and Gallery, refused to serve a same-sex couple who inquired about hosting a wedding at the venue in 2013. While the two men, Jared Ellers and Lee Stafford, filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Odgaards responded by filing a lawsuit against the commission, claiming they were not required to accommodate same-sex weddings since doing so would violate their religious freedom.
In settling that complaint, the Odgaards withdrew their lawsuit suit and paid $5,000 to settle Ellers and Stafford's complaint. As part of the settlement, reached last December, the gallery owners admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to no longer discriminate against same-sex couples. But they claim their religious beliefs still prohibit them from endorsing these ceremonies, so they will stop hosting all weddings in order to avoid future legal issues.
Since the venue, a restored Lutheran church, had typically hosted 15 to 20 weddings a year before the owners decided to change their policy, Richard Odgaard told Cruz that they have seen a sharp decline in business since the shift. Because of this, the couple plans to close the venue by the end of this year, Odgaard says in the video.
"It was devastating to hear that we were bigots, that we were homophobes, that we were haters," Betty Odgaard tells Cruz.
"Because you declined to allow this church, that you own, to be used to host a wedding that is contradictory to your faith," Cruz summarizes, disregarding the fact that the couple voluntarily chose to stop providing wedding services rather than serve all couples equally -- as Iowa law had required them to do since 2009.
In fact, Betty Odgaard acknowledges in her conversation with Cruz that the Iowa law changed in 2009, but the couple's unlawful practices didn't come under public scrutiny until they turned away a same-sex couple in 2013.
"Your story is powerful, your story is inspirational," Cruz tells the Odgaards. "It inspires me and it inspires millions of believers, believers of many faiths across this country who want to live in a land where we are free to live out according to our faith and our convictions and it's not second-guessed by the government stepping in saying. 'We don't share your faith and we're going to shut you down.'"
Watch Cruz's latest video, "In Defense of Religious Liberty," below.