Southern Baptists Hear from Presidential Candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio at 2015 Send North America Conference

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (left) promised during an interview with the ERLC’s Russell Moore to defund Planned Parenthood if he is elected president. Photo by Susan Whitley/NAMB
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (left) promised during an interview with the ERLC’s Russell Moore to defund Planned Parenthood if he is elected president.
Photo by Susan Whitley/NAMB

Southern Baptists heard from two presidential candidates and considered how the Gospel of Jesus applies to politics in back-to-back events Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 4 and 5) in Nashville.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — both bidding for the Republican Party presidential nomination — answered questions Aug. 4 before more than 13,000 people gathered for the Send North America Conference in Bridgestone Arena. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, interviewed the candidates at the conference, which was jointly sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.

The interviews of Bush and Rubio came a day before the ERLC’s 2015 National Conference on applying the Gospel to politics. The Aug. 5 event focused on how evangelical Christians should engage in the public square in a way that is formed by and faithful to the Gospel.

In the Aug. 4 question-and-answer sessions at the Send Conference, Moore asked the GOP candidates about such issues as religious liberty in the United States, the use of military force overseas to defend Christians and other religious adherents against Islamic extremists, the torture of detained enemy combatants, abortion, racial discrimination and overcoming public incivility.

Speaking in person at the conference, Bush promised to defund Planned Parenthood if elected to the White House. His comment came after the release of five undercover videos over the previous three weeks that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children for research. The organization received $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in its most recent financial year.

Bush went on to say, “If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” That comment drew strong rebukes from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others.

Later, Bush said in a statement released through his campaign website he misspoke. “There are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded,” he said. “They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.

“I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood — an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs. Democrats and Republicans agree we absolutely must defund them and redirect those funds to other women’s health organizations.”

Speaking in a pre-recorded video, Rubio told Moore some abortion rights advocates are extremists.

“People that stand for the idea that you should be able to abort a child at any stage in the pregnancy — they’re the extremists,” Rubio said. “People who believe that a young child, a minor, should be able to get an abortion easier than a tattoo — they’re the extremists. And I think it’s important for us to point out those examples of extremism because every life we save, whether it’s by changing hearts or changing laws, is an important step forward in progress.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tom Strode

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