Sen. Marco Rubio told a family values group Saturday night that moral issues need to be part of government debate and that the United States needs to do more to protect religious freedom abroad.
"The moral well-being of our nation is our business. It's everybody's business," Rubio said to applause at the Florida Family Policy Council fundraising dinner. "The debate we should be having isn't whether or not we have a right to talk about values and morals in the public square, the debate we should be having instead is which values and morals our nation should focus on."
Rubio, who fell out of favor with some conservatives while pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, clearly still had the support of the social conservatives at the dinner. After he took the stage, one man yelled, "Rubio for president!" followed by applause from others.
Rubio is a potential 2016 presidential candidate. He came from nowhere to win his seat during a tea party wave in 2010 and appears to be focused on ensuring he continues to have support from conservatives.
"The American Dream cannot be saved unless our people have the values they need for success," Rubio said. "They cannot be taught by government, and they will not be taught by the tornado of entertainment content and media messaging swirling around our children every day."
The dinner was raising money for the group that led the petition drive to put a gay marriage ban on the state ballot. The constitutional amendment was approved by voters in 2008. Videos shown before and after Rubio spoke showed its president, John Stemberger, speaking against gay marriage, gay scout masters and allowing people who have had sex changes to teach in schools.
The appearance came a little more than a week after Rubio voted against a bill that would have outlawed workplace discrimination against gays.
While Rubio didn't mention gay rights debates in his 22-minute speech, it was a strong pro-religion and morality address.
"We hear about keeping God out of our schools, keeping God out of our politics, keeping God out of other people's lives," Rubio said. "This is a ridiculous debate, because God is everywhere at every time."
And he said the United States should be doing more to promote American values and protect people's rights to worship around the world.
"I want you to consider the vacuum that would open up if America was no longer a global presence. Consider the voices of evil and hatred that would gladly move in and take our place," he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.