Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush blasted Obama’s administration on “Religious Freedom” and praises the need for a strong Christian voice while claiming Christian victimhood.

While most of the Republican presidential candidates were at the South Carolina Freedom Summit, former Florida governor Jeb Bush traveled to Virginia to deliver a commencement address at the Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. In his speech, Jeb Bush fully embraced the victimhood narrative that has become popular among the right wing conservatives. He also called for a strong Christian voice in the world while accusing Obama’s administration of “demanding obedience in complete disregard of religious conscience.”

While the speech was expected to have religious overtones given the context, the Washington Post reported it as”‘blunt sectarianism” with “an embrace of the [Christian] victimhood narrative”. Celebrating the Christian voice, Bush praised “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.

Such blatant extolling of Christianity superiority has drawn comparisons with the religious positions of his brother former president, George W. Bush. Jeb Bush is a converted Catholic while his brother is a Methodist, though most people tend to remember him as an Evangelical Christian. Unlike Jeb Bush, the former president was considerably more careful when talking about religion and was all inclusive in his speeches except for the the occasional extra praise given to Christianity.

The Christian victimhood narrative has gained momentum following a number of incidents which have drawn criticism of the current administration from the right wing on matters of religious freedom. The most prominent one is Obama’s healthcare policy that has seen religiously-affiliated organizations in debates regarding requirements to provide health insurance for employees including birth control. The controversies have also extended to religious retailers and their selection of customers, most notably florists who do not want to be compelled to sell their arrangements at gay weddings.

This speech is an important moment for the Jeb Bush presidential campaign for the 2016 election. He is preparing to face fellow republicans, some considered more popular with the bigger bases of conservatives in the party. The other candidates include Texas Senator, Ted Cruz; Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee; Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal; and former Texas Governor, Rick Perry. All of these republican candidates have made religion a base for their campaigns, and all have criticized the Obama administration for its apparent disregard of religious conscience.

To some, these right wing attitudes from Jeb Bush will hurt both his and the republican party’s chances, especially during the main election after primaries. As Morgan Finkelstein, the spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said, “by supporting the Indiana discrimination law and attacking women’s reproductive rights, Bush places himself firmly at odds with Virginia values.”

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