George W. Bush defends religious liberty
 
Former President George W. Bush offered a defense of religious liberty and faith more broadly while speaking at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) commencement ceremony Saturday.
 
He spent some of his speech talking about why graduates should be hopeful as they move on from their college years. Towards the end, he offered one more.
 
“And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving god,” he said. “Whether you agree with that statement is your choice, it is not your government’s choice.”
 
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“It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want — or not to worship at all — is a core belief of our founding.”
 
His comments come amid a renewed national debate about so-called religious liberty laws that critics say will allow businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender customers. 
 
Governors in Indiana and Arkansas both had to make changes to such legislation in their state after outcries from LGBT advocates and the business community.
 
Possible presidential candidates, including Bush’s brother Jeb, were asked to weigh in on the laws. Jeb Bush called for a “consensus-oriented approach” in Indiana at the time.
 
George W. Bush’s comments Saturday were more personal than political, has he closed his remarks with a discussion of his own faith.
 
“I’ve made my choice,” he said. “I believe that the almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you.”
 
He said it was his first commencement speech since leaving office. Bush has deep ties to SMU. His wife Laura graduated from the school in 1968, and the university is the site of George W. Bush’s presidential library.