Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee praised Kentucky clerk Kim Davis as a champion of religious freedom as she emerged from jail, where she had been held for five days for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
The former Arkansas governor offered himself up in her place if she’s forced to return to jail.
“If somebody needs to go to jail, I am willing to go in her place, and I mean that,” he said Tuesday as Davis walked free.  
“I am tired of watching people being just harassed because they believe something of their faith and we cannot criminalize the Christian faith or any faith in this country and I pray that there will be remedies that do not involve putting someone in jail for their convictions.“
Both Huckabee and fellow presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) traveled to Kentucky on Tuesday with plans to meet with Davis in jail. But as supporters convened outside to attend Huckabee’s “Free Kim Davis Now” rally, a federal judge ordered that she be released. 
The same judge jailed her last week over contempt of court for failing to issue the licenses in light of June's Supreme Court ruling in favor of a national right to same-sex marriage.
The court ordered that she must not “interfere” with her county issuing same-sex marriage licenses once she is released. Her lawyer told reporters alongside Davis and Huckabee that she’ll be returning to work this week and would not violate her religious beliefs, so it’s still unclear whether she’ll follow the court order.
Davis has become a cause célèbre among conservative politicians, especially presidential candidates looking to court the Christian conservative vote. 
By taking the reigns to organize the rally and appearing side-by-side with Davis as she emerged from the Carter County Detention Center, Huckabee hopes to win favor with religious conservatives who view religious freedom as a paramount issue.
Huckabee and Cruz both took to Twitter to congratulate Davis, but also to share pictures of themselves meeting with Davis after she had been released — a tacit reminder to supporters of their advocacy. 
Both candidates are focused on support within the religious right as fodder for their White House bids. Huckabee, the former pastor, has been a longtime favorite of religious voters and used that support in part to place second in the 2008 GOP presidential primary.
And Cruz, who regularly relies on his legal background to advocate for the protection of religious beliefs, is a two-time winner of the Value Voters Summit presidential straw poll, a litmus test for religious conservative voters.
But the Evangelical lane is much more crowded this year than it had been in past elections. Huckabee, Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are all running with the hopes of capturing that constituency.
And recent polling shows that support is fragmented across the field. Donald Trump leads the pack with white, born-again Evangelicals in Quinnipiac’s late August poll with 24 percent. Carson follows with 13 percent, and Cruz places third with 9 percent. Huckabee scores just 3 percent of that group, tied with Santorum and two percentage points ahead of Jindal. 
- Updated at 4:26 p.m.