Kasich’s Answer on Religious Liberty is an Affront to the First Amendment

By Matt Barber Published on February 28, 2016

Much will be written about the utter thrashing GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump took at the hands of the far-more prepared, knowledgeable, qualified and otherwise principled Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate on CNN. I will, therefore, focus, instead, on another Republican candidate who gave a terrible answer to a question on religious liberty: Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Many thanks to Hugh Hewitt for asking the question. In a campaign where the noise of myriad, and in many cases less critical, issues has drowned out the single greatest threat to God-fearing Americans’ individual liberties — the secular left’s tireless efforts to end our constitutional religious free exercise and freedom of conscience. Hewitt exposed John Kasich as an enemy to religious freedom in the workplace.

In one exchange, Hewitt said, “Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty.” He later added, “Governor Kasich, back to religious liberty. You’ve been a little bit less emphatic. You’ve said, same-sex couple approaches a cupcake maker, sell them a cupcake. Can we trust you as much on religious liberty as the rest of these people?”

Kasich went off the rails. The New York Times summarized his response thusly: “Mr. Kasich went further than any of his rivals in dismissing — even belittling — the idea that businesses should be able to claim religious freedom and allow them not to cater to gay and lesbian couples.”

“Religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in …” he said, “but, look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on. And what I’ve said, Hugh, is that, look, where does it end? …”

“I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior.”

“But when it comes to the religious institutions, they are inviolate in my mind, and I would fight for those religious institutions,” he concluded.

What a cop out.

Kasich lacks a rudimentary understanding of the First Amendment and freedom of conscience. His evasive twaddle that “religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in” betrays his ignorance of the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s founding. Not because it’s untrue, but because it’s intentionally incomplete.

The First Amendment follows, not only the religious institution, but the individual American citizen — be he a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker. The Constitution secures both religious free exercise and liberty of conscience. It protects individual rights first, and institutional rights thereafter.

“Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live and work consistent with their faith,” notes Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco. “Government has a duty to protect people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally rather than force them to adopt the government’s views.”

Indeed, religious liberty is non-negotiable. Freedom of conscience is the bedrock of American society. Today’s anti-Christian lynch mob, which evidently includes John Kasich, indignantly imagines that some newfangled “gay right” to not be offended trumps the First Amendment. Those who believe so are not only on the wrong side of the U.S. Constitution and history, they’re on the wrong side of public opinion.

Consider, for instance, a 2015 Marist poll which established that, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans reject the very kind of anti-Christian penalties and fines Kasich supports. Christians “in the business of commerce,” as he flippantly calls them, are, even now, being persecuted by left-wing “human rights” Star Chambers with increasing frequency and intensity.

Christian clerks, judges, bakers, florists, innkeepers, caterers, photographers and a litany of other small-business owners from coast to coast are being summarily harassed, sued and even jailed, not because these Christian individuals won’t “serve gays” (they will and do without hesitation), but, rather, because they politely decline to spend their time and talent contributing to, and thereby endorsing, the message behind specific events that run counter to biblical principles and otherwise infringe their deeply held religious convictions.

But rather than defending them and showing solidarity with them, Kasich dismissed them.

Governor Kasich, you blew it.


Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).

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