*Note: The general often deviates from prepared remarks. 

Thank you for those kind words, and to all of you for having me here today. The Liberty Institute has been at the forefront of defending religious liberty for all Americans, and I can’t think of a time in our nation’s history when that’s been a more pressing need for what you do.

Sadly, we live in a time where good, honest people are being vilified across this country for living their lives according to their religious belief or even for suggesting they should be allowed to do so. It’s an extraordinary shift in our nation’s priorities and a dangerous path for us to be on.

As you all know, the First Amendment was no afterthought, it was a measured, deliberate addition from the Founding Fathers.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That’s what even President Bill Clinton agreed was the “First Freedom” of the United States.

While the Left argues that the First Amendment mainly means religion and, by proxy, religious people should play no role in public discourse those word, “free exercise thereof,” were put there expressly to ensure government doesn’t meddle in people’s most personal relationship that with their Creator.

It’s a shield, a promise from the Founders that people in America can practice their faith without interference from the government. That’s a promise that is being broken in this country, day by day.

Where activists rail against and distort laws like Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which does nothing more than the federal version President Clinton signed into law in 1993,  people of faith, and people of the law wonder: How did we get to a place where Religious Freedom needs to be “restored” in the first place?

Religious liberty is not a privilege “allowed” to us by our government, it’s a God-given right to all people, it’s a fundamental building block of our society. Religious liberty is not something that can be taken away by the government or by mob rule.

Proponents of same-sex marriage, in particular, are shouting down anyone who dares suggest that morality plays a role in their business decisions.They contend that if they don’t get flowers from a specific florist…or have a marriage ceremony performed by a specific member of the clergy that this somehow makes them second-class citizens.

But what degrades a citizen to second-class status more than being told that you must abandon your most closely-held beliefs or face punishment from society and from the courts?

Our Founding Fathers correctly understood that a government that mandates one opinion over another is tyrannical. And we’re seeing far too many examples of tyranny in our country lately.

There was an Oregon cake maker who was run out of business because she didn’t want to make cakes for same-sex weddings. There was the Mozilla CEO who lost his job because he supported traditional marriage. And there was the small-town pizzeria [Walkerton, IN] who last week had to close its doors due to threats because when asked a hypothetical question about catering a same-sex marriage, they said their religious beliefs would prevent them from doing so.

All of these people have been turned into villains merely for attempting to live their lives and conduct their business honestly, openly, and in a fashion consistent with their beliefs. Let’s remember that in most of these cases, these are individuals who are sacrificing financial gain to stand up for what they believe in. Principles over money. Can you imagine that?

That’s the sort of thing that should be celebrated in this day and age, not shunned. Instead, the only celebrations I’ve seen are for those corporations that are pressuring officials in Indiana and Arkansas to back off the defense of religious freedoms because they fear a risk to their bottom lines.

To the left, the heroes in all this are the commercial powers who are placing profits over principles and the politicians who are backing down. Again, though, we live in a world where “right” and “wrong” are defined exclusively by whether someone agrees with you or not. As people of Faith, we understand that there are such things as moral absolutes, and that those absolutes must not be disregarded. Those types of convictions are precisely what the Founding Fathers were protecting when they wrote the First Amendment.

When signing the 1993 RFFA President Bill Clinton said, “[The Founders] knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive.” And this is not just about same-sex marriage, it’s about having the freedom to allow your religious beliefs and morals to influence the decisions you make in your personal and professional lives.

What about a gay photographer who chooses not to take photos at a ceremony at the Westboro Baptist Church? Or a Jewish property owner who doesn’t want to lease out his event hall to a group of Holocaust Deniers?

No matter your own personal beliefs, we cannot allow people of faith and convictions to be targeted merely because they believe differently than a loud faction of our society. We must stand firm and demand that the government stop giving away our First Amendment rights, one slice at a time. Our nation’s governors must stand strong against the pop culture noise machine and corporate lobbyists.And those corporations need to be reminded that their customers are Americans who recognize that their rights are bestowed not by man, but by the Almighty.

Here in Texas, we need the Legislature to take action to make it unmistakably clear that our religious liberties will never take a back seat to the politically correct. This is for the people to decide not the media noise machine, and not judges, politicians, or crony capitalist interests. In America, the people hold the power, just like always have.

Once again, I thank you all for having me here and for everything you’re doing to keep America free. May God bless you and may God continue to bless Texas.