Ben Carson threw red meat at South Carolina’s powerful evangelical voting bloc Friday, telling attendees at the Faith and Family Presidential Forum in Greenville that the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality was a “real problem” and that he, as president, would work to protect Americans who oppose same-sex nuptials on religious grounds.
“Everybody, according to our Constitution, should be treated equally and should have the same rights. But nobody gets extra rights. Nobody gets the right to redefine everything for everyone else and then make them conform to that,” the Republican presidential candidate said of the 2015 Obergefelldecision, which made marriage equality the law of the land.
“There are people of faith who believe marriage is between one man and woman… who are being prosecuted,” Carson continued. “We cannot tolerate that.”
Carson was the first of four White House hopefuls – including former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz – scheduled to address the Faith and Family Presidential Forum Friday at Bob Jones University. The event comes one day before the CBS Republican presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina, and eight days before the first-in-the-South GOP primary, in which social conservatives and religious voters play an outsize role. In 2012, 65% of South Carolina primary voters identified as evangelical Christians, according to exit polls.
For both Carson and Cruz, Friday’s event marked the second time this campaign cycle that the candidates have spoken at Bob Jones University – a school that became a flashpoint in the 2000 Republican presidential primary over its longstanding ban on interracial dating. Bob Jones University dropped the controversial policy shortly after George W. Bush came under fire from his rivals for speaking there without criticizing the ban.
In his first 100 days in office, Carson said Friday he would support the First Amendment Defense Act(FADA) – a bill that would prohibit the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action” against a person who acts in accordance with a religious opposition to same-sex marriage or premarital sex. FADA defines “person” very broadly to include for-profit organizations, and “discriminatory action” as the revocation of tax-exempt status or the termination of federal contracts.
He also said lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court needed to be “reexamined.” Asked how he would select Supreme Court justices, Carson quoted Scripture: “By their fruits, you will know them.”
Later, the event moderators played one of several “sting” videos edited to show Planned Parenthood executives casually discussing the process of donating fetal tissue for medical research. (David Daleiden, who made and released the videos, was recently indicted by a Texas grand jury on felony charges.) After viewing the video, Carson called it “disgusting.”
“How can God bless a society that has no regard for human life and that is selling body parts? I mean, it is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
This article originally appeared on MSNBC.com.