Given his popularity among evangelical voters, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has received endorsements from a number of Christian leaders across the country, some with controversial pasts. The Republican candidate counts supporters among Mike Bickle, a preacher who once called Oprah Winfrey the “forerunner of the Antichrist,” and Bob Vander Plaats, head of Iowa-based group The Family Leader, who preaches that same-sex marriage is Satanic.
Cruz has embraced these endorsements. When Bickle announced his support, the Texas senator said he was grateful for the International House of Prayer founder's support. "With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith,” Cruz said in an announcement regarding the Kansas City, Missouri, pastor's endorsement on his official campaign website.
Bickle made headlines for a sermon where he declared that the Jews will be exterminated if they do not embrace Jesus as their savior. “The Lord says, ‘I’m going to give all 20 million of them the chance to respond to the fishermen. And I give them grace. And he says, ‘And if they don’t respond to grace, I’m going to raise up the hunters.’ And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler,” he told an audience, according to the Times of Israel.
Ahead of the Iowa caucus, Cruz also grabbed the endorsement of Vander Plaats, a powerful figure of the state's Christian conservatives. Iowa campaign director Bryan English called the endorsement “a very significant day in the campaign.” Vander Plaats’ backing comes with controversy: the president of The Family Leader regards gay marriage as a “grave threat to liberty and a satanic plot” and applauded Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “homosexual propaganda” ban, according to GLAAD.
Cruz has also aligned himself with other controversial, anti-gay Christian leaders. He spoke at the National Religious Liberties Conference in November, which was organized by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who once suggested death as a punishment for homosexuality. At the conference, Swanson said that Americans should repent for the Harry Potter book series since one of the characters, Dumbledore, was gay, according to Right Wing Watch.
Kevin Swanson: "America, repent of Harry Potter! America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual for Harry Potter!" #Freedom2015
— Brian Tashman (@briantashman) November 7, 2015
In November, Cruz posted a list of Christian leaders who endorsed his run for president on his official website. On the list was Philip Benham, director of Operation Save America, who has compared Muslims and gay people to the devil, according to Raw Story.
“I am excited to be surrounded by so many people of faith,” Cruz said in a statement. “Believers are alarmed that their values are not being represented, nor their liberties respected, in Washington. This list reflects a wide range of denominations, ministries, geography, and church size.”