It’s not like we don’t know that Ted Cruz has a long and storied history of playing fast and loose with the facts. His fans may not mind, but of the statements by Cruz that have been evaluated by Politifact, the website rates only 5% of them as true, and only 34% as true, mostly true or half true. That means the remaining 66% are either mostly false, false, or pants-on-fire false. In short, Cruz is more a truthiness kind of guy than a truthful one.
Cruz once again flaunted his aversion to accuracy at a campaign event yesterday, telling the kind of religious persecution story that Todd Starnes dreams of.
Think Progress‘ Kira Lerner explains:
During a town hall event in South Carolina on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz made the bold claim that he will defend religious liberty because “what kind of country are we living in where…we’re threatening teenage girls with going to jail if they say the name of Jesus?”
Cruz made the remark after telling the story of Angela Hildenbrand, a high school valedictorian who he claims was “threatened with jail if she exercised her right to pray during her graduation speech.” At the South Carolina event and at other campaign events in the past, Cruz has discussed her story as an example of the government’s war on Christianity. As he explained on Monday, Hildenbrand was initially barred from leading prayer, but attorneys from the Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion and won an appeal shortly before her graduation.
The problem with this story? It’s a lie.
And not a little-white-lie kind of lie, either. This is one of the 100-percent-false, Donald-Trump-is-jealous sort of lie that Cruz likes to throw out every once in awhile, just to remind his party’s frontrunners they’re not the only demagogues in town.
The family of Corwyn Schultz, one of Hildenbrand’s high school classmates, filed a lawsuit against the Medina Valley Independent School District in 2011, challenging the fact that speakers at the high school graduation would often lead the audience in proselytizing prayers and invocations.
The district court judge sided with the Schultz family, ruling in a preliminary injunction that graduation prayers violate the Establishment Clause. “He said the students could still make religious references in their speeches,” [Americans United for Separation of Church & State attorney who worked on the case, Greg] Lipper said. “They just couldn’t deliver prayers.” Lipper noted that the injunction was in agreement with a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court has also made with respect to another school district in Texas.
Cruz’s claim that the judge threatened Hildenbrand with jail time is also completely false, Lipper said.
“There was a reference in the preliminary injunction to enforcement mechanisms, but that was aimed at the school district and not the students,” he said. “There was no threat of any student getting punished by the court, let alone getting sent to jail.”
Hildenbrand, who won the case on appeal, was neither “threaten[ed] with jail,” nor was she told she couldn’t “say the name of Jesus.” This is, in short, pure religious persecution fantasy. It not only distorts the basis of the complaint, but wildly exaggerates and misrepresents the limitations put on students and flat out invents a punishment for those who failed to comply.
Cruz is apparently hoping to add another “pants-on-fire” rating to his stellar record. Or maybe he heard some of the wild things other contenders have been saying, and decided it was time he took a turn.