by Joshua Pinho
In a recently released video, Senator Ted Cruz sits down with an Iowa couple, Dick and Betty Odgaard, who own and operate a restaurant in a converted old church. In 2008, the couple began to rent out some of their space for wedding services and receptions. In 2013, they turned away a gay couple who wanted to rent their space and were subsequently sued. The couple talked to Cruz about the experience:
Betty Odgaard: It was devastating to hear that we were bigots, we were homophobes, we were haters.
Cruz: Because you declined to allow this church that you own to be used to host a wedding that was contrary to your faith.
Betty Odgaard: I just kept thinking, they don’t know us. How can they be calling us all these horrible, horrible things? They don’t know what’s in our hearts. We have no hatred toward gay people.
Cruz: So you had been, for a number of years, hosting weddings in this historic church.
Dick Odgaard: Yes.
Cruz: And as a result, of this litigation proceeding, you stopped hosting any weddings at all?
Betty Odgaard: Right, we didn’t have a choice.
Dick Odgaard: And that has been quite painful, and as a result of that, the business is declining we just can’t support it, and so we’re—by the end of August, we’ll be shutting our doors.
Cruz: Well, you know, I’ll tell you, our country was founded by people who risked everything for religious liberty. Free of the government getting in the way, and I want to thank both of you number one, for taking a stand, but number two, for telling your story. Your story is powerful, your story is inspirational and inspires me and it inspires millions of believers. Believers of many faiths across this country, who want to live in a land where we’re free to live out according to our faith and our convictions and it’s not second guessed by the government coming in and saying, we don’t share your faith, and we’re going to shut you down.
Dick Odgaard: And you can do that with respect for all.
Dick Odgaard: You just can. And what we hope we can do is try to change the course as best we can in the years we have left.
Cruz: Well, thank you for your courage and thank you for your conviction.
Joshua Pinho works for American Principles in Action.