Religious freedom must be a key issue in the 2016 presidential race, especially with America's bedrock of liberty eroding so quickly, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, tells Newsmax TV
"This is a central issue and should be a central issue in the 2016 election," Perkins said Friday to hosts J.D. Hayworth and Miranda Khan on Newsmax Prime.
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"Not just domestic religious freedom, but we have seen over the last 24 months in particular under the leadership of President [Barack] Obama how religious persecution has spread like wildfire around the globe.
And America has basically sat on the sidelines and been silent. For Americans, we understand this is a fundamental, this is our first freedom."
Perkins said all of the nation's freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of association, hinge on religious freedom.
"It is something we absolutely must defend and we must expect and require our elected leaders to lead the way," said Perkins, author of the new book "No Fear: Real Stories of a Courageous New Generation Standing for Truth,"
published by WaterBrook Press.
He said the issue has already heated up with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, racing to support Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for contempt of court for bucking a Supreme Court ruling and refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
"We've seen the court, five lawyers on the Supreme Court, have created this dilemma where you see this conflict between a new right that they have created and a fundamental, clearly enumerated right of the freedom of religious, the ability to exercise your religion," Perkins said.
"The left wants to quarantine this within the four walls of our churches. That is not freedom of religious. Freedom of religion is the ability to live your life according to your faith. We should be free to believe and live according to those beliefs."
Perkins said Donald Trump has been a breath of fresh air in getting candidates to talk, although he's not sure the billionaire developer is the right choice.
"What we're seeing is Donald Trump is reflective of the frustration and the angst that exist among voters, and that includes social conservative evangelical voters. They're tired of the politics as usual, they're tired of the promises never becoming reality," Perkins said.
"Whether that's fair or not, I understand we've got divided government. We've got Barack Obama who is ideologically opposed to everything that conservatives stand for.
"However, the bigger issue is they don't see Republican fighting for those things and here they see Donald Trump, who gets up unfettered by political correctness."
Perkins said Trump's take-no-prisoners approach is "refreshing" to voters who see a candidate who "is not being choked back by the media or by the political class … muzzled by the political correctness that has invaded our culture."
"This is a first impression of Donald Trump, they like somebody who's challenging the status quo, but ultimately as they begin to listen to him and his positions, I'm not sure that support remains," Perkins said.
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