Thomas White, president of Cedarville University, has been chosen to serve on the Religious Liberty Advisory Board for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. The announcement came Jan. 5.
“I personally consider it an honor to be asked, and as a(n) amateur political junky, it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” White said in an email.
Other advisory board members include theologian Wayne Grudem, Saddleback Church pastor and author of “Purpose Driven Life” Rick Warren, and Kyle Duncan, lead counsel for Steve Green in the Hobby Lobby U.S. Supreme Court case. The advisory board also includes Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Jewish scholar at Yeshiva University.
The Religious Liberty Advisory Board was formed just weeks before the Iowa Caucus, which will take place Feb. 1. The Iowa Caucus is the first state primary each election year. This means the Caucus is the first step to deciding who the Democrat and Republican candidates will be in the 2016 presidential election.
According to a January 2016 NBC News article, during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, evangelical voters decided who won the caucus.
Rubio is a Roman Catholic who was formerly a member of the Mormon Church. However, he also regularly attends a Baptist church.
Eric Teetsel, director of faith outreach for Rubio’s campaign, told WORLD Magazine that some of the issues the religious advisory board will discuss include contraception, gay marriage, and religious freedom for Christians in the Middle East.
Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of history and associate director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, was also appointed to the board.
“We recently had a conference call with the advisory board and officials from the Rubio campaign, and (we) discussed important issues, such as religious liberty and Christian colleges and a proposed Obamacare mandate that could potentially require health care professionals to participate in ‘sex-reassignment’ surgery against their consciences,” he said in an email.
White said some of the religious liberty issues that are most important to him include Christian education, the local church and the spread of the gospel.
A private citizen
White said he is serving on the board as a private citizen rather than representing the university.
“Hopefully acting as a private citizen, I can serve the Rubio campaign, Christian universities and ultimately the Lord well by communicating a biblical perspective on religious liberty issues and highlighting some of the challenges facing Christian education,” he said.
White said that if any other candidates asked him to serve on a similar board he would consider doing so.
“I certainly have the freedom to do so, and I would pray about it because religious liberty is such an important issue,” he said in an email, “but it would depend on which candidate and what that campaign desired from me.”
An opportunity for ministry
Paul Dixon, former Cedarville president and current chancellor for the university, served as the president of the Springfield-Clark County Chamber of Commerce Board, as well as the president of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, during his tenure at Cedarville.
“I look at it first of all in our relation to our Lord, our witness for him. I believe deeply that we as believers, and especially those of us who have been put into leadership positions, need to have a presence in the community for Christ,” Dixon said. “And I define community (as) where we live, where we work, where we go to school.”
Lt. General (Ret.) Loren Reno, interim vice president for academics and chief academic officer at Cedarville, said White’s appointment to the advisory board adds value to the kingdom of God.
“When I say it adds value to the kingdom of God, I’m not presumptuous enough to think that man could make anything of God’s better, but he uses people who take stands and do right,” Reno said. “I think it provides Dr. White with a forum – a process, if you will – for speaking about things that really matter.”
Kathryn Field, a senior history and political science major, said she has been following the Rubio campaign for over a year. She said White is a good fit for Rubio’s Religious Liberty Advisory Board.
“Dr. White is really committed to his personal and religious convictions, and I think Rubio is as well,” she said. “Dr. White is also very enthusiastic about religious liberties and wants to protect them, so I think they would be a good match.”
Jen Taggart is a junior journalism major and off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys writing, listening to music and fueling her chocolate addiction.