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Sen. Ted Cruz speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court at a rally during oral arguments for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.American Life League

DES MOINES, IA, August 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Republican presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz hosted a religious freedom rally in Des Moines, IA Friday night, with an estimated two to three thousand people traveling from across Iowa and out of state to attend.

The event, part of Cruz's campaign for president, was a mix of religious revival, panel discussion, interview, and prayer. The event also included entertainment, with music performed by Christian music group The Bontrager Family Singers and Christian rock band Newsboys.

But the evening centered on appearances by the subjects of several notorious cases of religious persecution currently playing out in the U.S.  

Cruz told the crowd that these threats to religious liberty are neither imagined nor made up.

“These are real people leading real lives, who found themselves facing persecution simply for living out their faith,” he said in a video posted to YouTube by the Caffeinated Thoughts blog.

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“There is a war on faith in America today,” Cruz stated. “In our lifetime, did we ever imagine that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we would be witnessing our government persecute its citizens for their faith?”

Dick and Betty Odgaard of Grimes, IA, who lost their business, the Görtz Haus Gallery, after declining to host a homosexual “wedding,” appeared at the rally and sat down with Cruz to talk about their experience.

“Why didn't you just give in? Why didn't you just agree to allow the same-sex wedding to be celebrated at the Görtz Haus?” Cruz asked them.

“We cannot celebrate a sin,” said Betty Odgaard. “We cannot take part in what we believe is a sin.”

She later came to tears during the conversation with Cruz.

“I know this has been a very hard journey,” Senator Cruz told the Odgaards, taking Betty Odgaard's hand, according to a Politico report. “Scripture tells us God ordered our steps.”

“Amen,” she responded.

“I'm convinced you have gone down this road, endured the pain, endured the attacks, endured the hatred, precisely to put you where you are here today, for such a time as this,” Cruz then said.

Taking part in a “Heroes Panel” at the rally were Kentucky t-shirt screen printer Blaine Adamson, from Hands on Originals, who had a complaint filed against him by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for declining to print its “pride festival” shirt; Barronelle Stutzman, the florist and owner of Arlene's Flowers and Gifts from Washington State who is being prosecuted personally and civilly for turning down an order for a homosexual “wedding”; Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Portland, OR, who have been fined $135,000 for refusing to take part in a “homosexual wedding”; retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, who was fired for refusing to endorse homosexual “marriage”; and former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, fired for expressing the biblical view of marriage and homosexuality.

Cruz also spoke with Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held captive in an Iranian prison since 2012 because of his Christian faith.

His statements condemning government attacks on religious liberty drew fervent applause, the Politico report said.

“Rights don't come from black-robed lawyers or from politicians in Washington,” Cruz told the rally crowd. “They come from God.”

More than 200 watch parties were held to view the event as well, according to the Cruz campaign, which also said the religious liberty gathering was biggest rally held by Cruz or any other candidate to date in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa.

One attendee commended Cruz for giving a human face to a subject that scores of Americans deem the most urgent political issue today.

“I just appreciate what he did tonight,” said Joy Cooley, of nearby Ankeny, IA, “bringing people to Iowa, letting us hear their stories on a personal level.”

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