NOTE: As I was finishing this post, I noticed that Maggie Gallagher published a similar article on this same topic over at The Pulse 2016. Go read her article as well!
UPDATED TO INCLUDE NEW REMARKS FROM RAND PAUL.
We asked the members of CatholicVote: Should support for religious liberty be a requirement in giving a presidential candidate Catholic support?
Overwhelmingly, you told us “Yes” “absolutely!”
Support for religious liberty once held bipartisan support. In fact, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved unanimously by the U.S. House and coasted through the Senate on a 97-3 vote before becoming law with the signature of President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Religious freedom no longer enjoys such bipartisan support.
In fact, Hillary Clinton is planning on a presidential run in 2016. And she has made very clear that she does not support the religious freedom like her husband did in 1993.
The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate took to Twitter and said: “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT.”
Martin O’Malley, who claims to be Catholic but supports legal abortion and redefining marriage, is also considering a presidential campaign as a Democrat. He’s not any better than Hillary on religious liberty. In fact, O’Malley called Republican support for the Indiana religious freedom law “shameful.”
Republican Responses to Indiana All Over the Map
At first, it looked like Republican presidential candidates would line up in solid defense of Indiana’s religious liberty law. But that consensus started to crack.
Jeb Bush started strong, but later waffled.
He told radio host Hugh Hewitt: “if they actually got briefed on the law that they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”
But just two days later — as the debate escalated in public, Bush backtracked. Before business leaders in the Silicon Valley, Bush gave a muddled response: “By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience, that it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country.”
Scott Walker went the other way. He started with a weak response but when conservatives in Iowa noticed, his rhetoric on religious liberty improved.
When interviewed by the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, Walker strangely characterized it as an issue unique to Indiana: “But that’s an issue they’ll have to debate in Indiana. It’s really not something that we’re going to be involved with here.”
Then a few days later, when speaking to a conservative audience, Walker said: “I believe protecting religious freedom is inherent in our state constitution,” Walker said. “Heck, it’s inherent in our U.S. Constitution. And in Wisconsin we’ve done it and we’re stronger for it.”
Rand Paul now has spoken out strongly in favor of religious liberty. (Hat tip: ThePulse2016.com). It took awhile, but great to hear:
Other candidates were better
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, who supports granting marriage benefits to same-sex couples (but hasn’t specifically said if she supports redefining marriage), nevertheless rose to defend the Indiana law. “Too often, we see people who are prevented from practicing their religion because of a government mandate,” she wrote on Facebook.
Ben Carson said it was “absolutely vital” for Americans to stand up for Indiana’s religious liberty protections.
Ted Cruz went to Twitter to publicly back the religious liberty law: “I’m proud to stand with Gov. @mike_pence for religious liberty, and I urge Americans to do the same.”
Rick Perry also tweeted his support, saying: “I stand with @GovPenceIN. Religious freedom is worth protecting. #RFRA”
These candidates gave the best answers on religious liberty
Marco Rubio went on Fox News — where many of the news anchors and commentators are far more supportive of gay marriage than you might think. He said: “No one here is saying it should be legal to deny someone service at a restaurant or at a hotel because of their sexual orientation. I think that’s a consensus view in America.” Watch Rubio give a solid answer on the rationale for the Indiana law (start at 3:41):
Rick Santorum on CBS’ Face the Nation said “tolerance is a two-way street” and used a great analogy on CBS’ Face the Nation to argue in favor of more religious liberty protections:
Mike Huckabee was also very strong on religious liberty. He said: “No one is qualified to be president if they don’t respect the First Amendment and religious liberty.”