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Politics & Policy

Kasich’s Narrow View of Religious Liberty

In last night’s debate, Governor Kasich drew a line between the freedom of religious institutions to act on their beliefs and the freedom of business owners to do the same:

Religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in. No question and no doubt about it.

Now, in regard to same-sex marriage, I don’t favor it. I’ve always favored traditional marriage, but, look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on. And what I’ve said, Hugh, is that, look, where does it end?

If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with, OK, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced.

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.

That’s the Obama administration’s view. The Supreme Court has ruled, however, that religious-liberty protections in U.S. law apply more broadly than that.

Kasich’s slippery-slope argument is peculiar because, in point of fact, lawmakers have generally not felt it necessary to compel cupcake-makers (to use the example with which Hugh Hewitt led in asking the question) to make cupcakes for divorced people. We have not approached the question of how much freedom cupcake-makers should have by asking, where will this freedom end? Our presumption has been that they can act as they wish, even if the occasional cupcake-maker does something we find objectionable or downright odd. As far as I know, that is, we’re already down the slope Kasich is warning about, and it doesn’t seem to be causing any huge problems.


Update: One additional point: I took it that Hewitt was referring, not to a cupcake maker who simply refused to sell to gay people, but one who didn’t wish to cater a same-sex wedding reception. (Do people do wedding receptions with cupcakes?) But it’s probably worth spelling out given the way this debate gets oversimplified.

Not many people, even those who would not cater a same-sex wedding, would claim a sincere religious objection to selling cupcakes to gay people with cupcakes. And it is also hard to imagine anyone having a sincere religious objection to catering a marriage in which one of the parties had previously been divorced. (Would a Catholic cupcake maker take it upon himself to learn this fact about a client and judge the validity of the previous marriage? It defies belief.)

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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