Candidates Defend Religious Freedom, Marriage in South Carolina

GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Myrtle Beach. Credit: Mark Wilson. Getty Images News/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidates promised to uphold values such as religious liberty and traditional marriage at events in South Carolina, where the next primary election is slated to take place on Jan. 21.

“At every turn, at every issue that would reach my desk, I will stand up for the ability of Americans to worship God as they choose,” said Mitt Romney, who currently leads in polls across the state.

Romney vowed to protect America’s religious tradition while speaking at a Jan. 14 forum hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

During the event at the Sottile Theatre at the College of Charleston, Romney was asked by participants how he would address “growing anti-Christian sentiment” in America.

The former Massachusetts governor responded that he would not add to what he called the secularization of America, but instead promote all citizens’ rights to practice religion as they see fit.

“I think we ought to be able to have manger scenes at Christmastime and menorahs, representing other faiths,” he explained.

“We are a believing people,” Romney said. “The Declaration of Independence established our rights by saying that they were created not by government, but by the Creator.”

GOP contender Rick Perry also voiced support for religious freedom.

At a Jan. 16 debate at Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the Texas governor defended the principle of “ministerial exception” – recently upheld by the Supreme Court – that allows religious groups to hire and fire individuals on their own terms, without government interference.

Perry also said that the Obama administration “is at war against organized religion.” He criticized the administration for denying a grant request from the U.S. bishops to run a program aiding human trafficking victims. [More]