Ted Cruz insists "religious liberty" is different from bigotry -- but refuses to say how

"Bigotry is wrong," he said, before telling NBC he'd dismantle the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage decision

Published June 29, 2015 1:22PM (EDT)

Monday on NBC's "Today," Texas senator and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz stood by his remarks that last Thursday and Friday represented "some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's histoy," telling Savannah Guthrie the Supreme Court's decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage amount to "five unelected lawyers saying the views of 320 million Americans don't matter."

Cruz argued that the Court's decisions were on par with 9/11 and Dred Scott, saying that on "two days, back to back, the majority of Supreme Court justices violated their judicial oath" by "forcing millions of people into this failed law" -- the Affordable Care Act -- on Thursday and "throwing out the marriage laws of all fifty states" on Friday.

"I've spent my life fighting to defend the Constitution," Cruz continued. "And there is a constitutional means of changing the marriage laws -- by convincing your fellow citizens to do so through the democratic process. What we saw instead is five unelected lawyers saying the views of 320 millions Americans don't matter because they're going to enforce their own policies."

Guthrie noted that Cruz said he would support Texas clerks who would refuse to issue marriage licenses on religious grounds, then asked him if he would support a clerk who refused to issue a license to an interracial couple on similar grounds.

"There's no religious backing on that," Cruz said, ignoring the fact that religious objections played a critical role in Loving v. Virginia. "I have spent decades fighting against bigotry and racial oppression. I'm the son of a Cuban immigrant. Bigotry is wrong."

He added that in his new book, "A Time for Truth," he argues that he's opposed to bigotry, but a strong proponent of religious liberty -- which is different from bigotry, though he didn't bother to elaborate as to how.

Guthrie, however, seemed unsatisfied with the potential nominee's canned response, and rephrased her question about Loving v. Virginia in terms of states' right. "So, the states should have been free to ban interracial marriage if they wanted to?" she asked.

"Of course not," he said. "We fought a bloody Civil War over the original sin of our country -- slavery. It was grotesque and immoral, and over 600,000 American citizens spilled their blood on American soil to expunge it. We passed three amendments to the Constitution to ensure that everyone has equal rights, regardless of race."

Guthrie apparently tired of Cruz's deflection, because she shifted gears and asked the senator why -- if politics is as corrupt as he claims it is in his book -- he would proposal a constitutional amendment that would subject justices to the same political pressures that corrupt elected officials.

"The Court injected itself into politics," he said.

"Would elections make it less political?" Guthrie asked.

Cruz said that retention elections would act as a "check" against elitist lawyers from Ivy league schools -- people, in other words, exactly like him -- imposing their will over what they consider "flyover country."

"There are no protestants, no evangelicals, on the Court," he said. "They think our views are parochial and don't deserve to be respected. What a crazy system to have the most important issues of our day decided by unelected lawyers."

Watch the entire interview via NBC below.

By Scott Eric Kaufman

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Elections 2016 Obamacare Same-sex Marriage Savannah Guthrie Ted Cruz Video