WASHINGTON - Jeb Bush made the case for a strong faith element in government during a speech before Christian conservatives this morning, recounting his actions as governor and vowing to make the U.S. a defender of religious freedom around the globe.
"I stood on the side of Terri Schiavo and her parents,” Bush said, recalling his controversial role in the end-of-life case that drew worldwide attention.
"How strange in our time today to hear our faith and our moral traditions spoken as some kind of backwards or oppressive force. When in fact, it is really the moral foundation of our country," Bush said to applause before the Faith & Freedom Coalition gathering.
Bush said as Florida governor he protected the "most vulnerable," including abused mothers and people with developmental disabilities. He said he was “shocked” at the "total lack of regulation" on abortion clinics in Florida and pushed for more oversight. "I signed into law a partial-birth abortion ban."
"We can shut down government if we all acted on our sense of consciousness about helping others," he said. "If we restore that front and center as the guiding principle of what it is to be a successful person, the demands on government would subside. We'd all be conservatives, which should be the objective."
He declared that religious freedoms are “under attack” and vowed not to hide his faith if elected.
“We should not push aside those who believe in traditional marriage,” Bush said to more applause.
Bush, who launched his presidential campaign on Monday, began the speech with a remembrance of the victims in the Charleston church shooting. He was to campaign in the city on Thursday but canceled.
“I don't know what was on the mind or heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes, but I do know what was in the heart of the victims. They were meeting in brotherhood and sisterhood in that church ... they were praying, they were learning and studying the word of the Lord.
"In times of great national mourning, people of faith, all of us, must come together and at least reflect on this and fortify our strength, love Christ, love of God, to be able to continue to go forth. This has had a big impact on me."