Governor John Kasich’s completely unacceptable remarks about religious liberty

Governor John Kasich recently appeared at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and commented on gay marriage and religious liberty. According to press reports, he said this:

I think frankly, our churches should not be forced to do anything that’s not consistent with them. But if you’re a cupcake maker and somebody wants a cupcake, make them a cupcake. Let’s not have a big lawsuit or argument over all this stuff — move on. The next thing, you know, they might be saying, if you’re divorced you shouldn’t get a cupcake.

This statement is so confused and misleading, it’s hard to know where to start with a response. I can hardly believe that it is coming from a man who is a self-professed evangelical and who claims to understand evangelical interests. Here is where he is wrong.

1. Kasich apparently thinks that the cases involving Christian bakers are about Christians refusing service to gay customers. Does Kasich know that he has just espoused the very lie that is regularly put forth by liberals who oppose religious liberty in the public square? These Christians aren’t refusing service to gay people. In all of the cases I’ve read, the store owners are happy to serve gay people. Their problem is that they don’t want to be forced by the government to participate in their weddings. And in each of these cases, that is what is happening. In the case of the Washington florist Baronnelle Stutzman, she was friends with the gay couple in question for nine years! She was happy to sell flowers to them through all of that time period—even flowers that they bought for each other! What she didn’t want to do was participate in their wedding. As a result, the couple and the attorney general of the state sued her for it. And now her home and retirement are at risk because her religious beliefs prevent her from participating in that wedding. To suggest that she refuses to serve gay people is a distortion that only serves the interests of those who oppose religious liberty.

2. Kasich says, “I think frankly, our churches should not be forced to do anything that’s not consistent with them.” What about Christians that want to live out their faith in their daily lives? Does Kasich think people have a right to do that? Kasich gives the impression that religious liberty ends once someone steps outside the church building. But this truncated account of things is not what religious liberty is. Neither the Constitution nor the Courts have defined religious liberty so narrowly. Religious liberty is the freedom to worship and serve God according to one’s conscience in every sphere of life. Kasich apparently doesn’t understand that and has essentially staked out the “freedom of worship” position that is so often advocated by liberals. It effectively limits freedom of worship to the church house and banishes religious freedom from the public square. And it means that if you are a Christian proponent of traditional marriage, it’s fine if you want to hold that view privately. But you have to be willing to violate those beliefs when you go to work. This is unacceptable.

3. Kasich says, “Let’s not have a big lawsuit or argument over all this stuff—move on.” This is absurd. It’s not the Christians who are bringing the lawsuits! It’s the gay couples and sometimes the civil authorities that are trying to punish the Christian proponents of traditional marriage. Believe me, these Christians would love to “move on.” But that’s a little hard to do when other people are suing to take your entire life away. Again, if Kasich doesn’t have these stories straight, that is completely unacceptable.

4. No Christian is threatening to withhold their services from divorced persons. This is another distortion that serves no one except those who do not care at all about religious liberty.

Either Kasich doesn’t understand the religious liberty issues at stake in these cases, or he is intentionally building a straw man against rights of conscience. In either case, his remarks would be disqualifying not just for Christian voters but for anyone who cares about religious liberty. This is completely unacceptable. I agree with Robbie George on this:

The uncomprehending John Kasich. He still hasn’t gotten his mind around what the issue is. At this point, I’m afraid, there is no excuse. Jeb got it. Most of the other Republican candidates get it.

10 Responses to Governor John Kasich’s completely unacceptable remarks about religious liberty

  1. Charles Stolfus February 24, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    Amen Denny. I attended a Religious Freedom conference this past Summer and everything you stated about those who are in the news regarding challenges to their religious freedom rights is true. I head the testimony of the Fire Chief from Atlanta who told of the vicious attacks made against him and the loss of his job simply for his views on marriage and sexuality–not for anything he had actually done on the job.
    I sat across the table at dinner with Barronelle Stutzman and her husband and heard them tell their story and I was saddened and humbled by their experience. “Saddened” because of the tragedy that has befallen them and the potential loss of their business and retirement. “Humbled” because of their sense of peace and the quiet confidence they still have despite their tragic experience of the last several years. I came away from my conversation with them realizing that I had been in the presence of some truly great saints of God.
    Most evangelicals I speak with have no idea how serious these challenges to religious liberty are. I am not talking about some future hypothetical challenge to religious liberty. But serious challenges to religious freedom right now.
    If self-professed evangelicals who aspire to the highest office in the Land like Kasich do not understand these fundamental challenges to religious liberty, how likely is it that the public at large understands it?

  2. Andrew Alladin February 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    For John Kasich Religious Liberty is another “culture war” distraction that Christians have to get over – like prayer in schools, teaching Creationism, or “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” – and “move on” to discussing real important stuff like cutting corporate taxes, child care credits, tinkering with Medicaid, Obama Care, and H1B Visas to satisfy Facebook, Microsoft, and Wall Street.

    He undoubtedly sees Religious Liberty as one of those Ol’ Timey Republican Wedge Issues – from the Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, Moral Majority days – that no longer play in the New America. If you want to attract Urban, Secular, Pro LGBTQ, Creative, Millennials – especially Hipster Foodies and Techies – then you obviously have to drop the divisive Culture War Faux News issues.

    No wonder Trump is getting so many Evangelicals to vote for him. Like me.

  3. Christiane Smith February 24, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    I would consider Kasich more moderate than people like Cruz or Rubio. If conservatism in the culture-war sense is what people want to support, I suspect that Cruz is the likely choice, but lately some of the circumstances surrounding the activities of Cruz’s staff have come under suspicion as being unethical to say the least . . . which I think may have had the effect of ending his chances to win any nomination in the foreseeable future.

    Trump? He will get the nomination.

    Rubio? He’s too young now . . . you’ve heard in British history about ‘Ethelred the Unready’, well people are talking these days about ‘Rubio the Unready’.

    Kasich seems the more experienced candidate politically, but he doesn’t seem to pander as much as is expected and I really think he still harbors much of the Catholic ethos under which he was raised before converting to a conservative branch of Anglicanism . . . is he ‘genuine’? . . . not so scripted? . . . or just holding to some kind of personal integrity in what he is saying that doesn’t count the cost of criticism from conservative evangelicals? Questions. 🙂

    • Ian Shaw February 25, 2016 at 8:09 am #

      If Trump wins the republican nomination, it will not bode well. He’s not a conservative and he’s no friend to evangelicals.

      It will be a lesser of two evils votes (again). The people in this country deserve better.

      • Christiane Smith February 28, 2016 at 12:55 am #

        I keep wondering where have the honorable leaders gone in the Republican Party . . . I know they aren’t among the panderers, or those who walk away when they don’t get their way, or the ‘extremists’, and they certainly aren’t present today on the political stage, as they were in the past times when our nation had fought through WWII and understood the costs of war before the time when ‘the draft’ took our poor sons to Viet Nam to die, and left our wealthy sons to the joys of university cop-outs, and before the time when we sought out wars where excuses had to be made for whom we were attacking, when the real culprits were in Afghanistan . . .

        All I know is that we DO deserve better than the current scene in both parties. Our nation’s military gives of themselves to the max to defend our homeland, and some jokester is paid devotion for being ‘the one who will get things done’?????

        It’s February, almost March. Where ARE the honorable people who understand to put country above politics, and duty above self-gain? I know that they are out there . . . likely serving somewhere on the front lines, and their brothers and sisters in arms are valued by them not because they serve ‘special interests’ . . . their ‘we’ includes ALL among them, those who are liberal, conservative, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, male, female . . . all share the same red American blood and they have a great resolve to do what is right for our whole country . . . yes, they ARE out there. We don’t deserve them, but they deserve better from us than our supporting clowns, buffoons, crazies, and nervous nellies. For their sake, we must do better.

    • Gus Nelson February 25, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

      Kasich is just saying what the Republican party has been quietly practicing for years when it comes to morally conservative evangelicals: shut up about moral issues and vote for us because you don’t have any choice – we know you can’t vote for the Democrat. I suppose one could consider that “integrity” although it’s an odd sort of integrity that takes people for granted.

  4. Ralph M. Petersen February 25, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Ralph M. Petersen As far as I know, most Christian business owners are NOT generally refusing to provide goods or services to anyone; it’s the endorsement of and participation with or in activities that run contrary to their moral convictions that are objectionable.

  5. Don Johnson February 25, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    As the government has the power to coerce, it needs to be restrained lest it act like a bully.

    The problem in this case as I see it is the precedent where Bob Jones U. claimed a religious exception to allow them to teach and enforce a prohibition on interracial dating on their campus. This went to trial and BJU lost and I think most people agree they should have lost and most now can see the racist motivation behind their old interpretation of Scripture. This established the idea that a religious exception to cultural norms was not total, there were some cultural norms that were going to be enforced everywhere in the US with no exceptions.

    What I would like to see is that the government’s power to coerce be used as little as possible; as I think economic rationales are enough, in general, for everyone to end up being served and also allow people to hold to their faith as they understand it. That is, the cake bakers and B&B, etc. will lose business and others will respond to the need and choose to fill it and no one ends up being coerced to do something they do not want to do.

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