Six Candidates Pledge to Sign First Amendment Defense Act Within First 100 Days

American Principles Project has joined together with Heritage Action for America, the action arm of the Heritage Foundation, and FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of the Family Research Council, to invite each of the candidates running for President to sign the following pledge:

If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President.

FADA_PledgeSo far, six candidates have signed the pledge:

  • Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
  • Dr. Ben Carson
  • Carly Fiorina
  • Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)
  • Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas)

Four candidates did not sign the pledge but have expressed public support for FADA:

  • Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-Florida)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)
  • Donald Trump

Four candidates did not sign the pledge and did not respond to our request to indicate support for FADA:

  • Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey)
  • Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio)
  • Former Governor George Pataki (R-New York)
  • Former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-Virginia)

The text of the letter sent to the candidates requesting support for FADA is below:

[T]he gathering concern around whether or not the Left will succeed in its ongoing efforts to force those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, prompts us to write to you and ask: will you commit to making it a top priority for you to ensure passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) in the first 100 days of your administration?

FADA protects supporters of natural marriage from punishment by the Federal government or its regulatory arms, including the IRS: “the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

It prevents the IRS from issuing regulations denying tax-exempt status to charities or schools that support natural marriage, and forbids the Federal government from discriminating against them in contracts, loans, licensing, accreditation or employment. It prevents Federal discrimination against individuals, employers and other organizations that continue to act in accordance with a belief in natural marriage, while specifically guaranteeing conscience protections will not also be used to disrupt benefits to which people are legally entitled.

Serious scholars suggest religious schools should expect to be punished by the withholding of federal funds under current law if they do not treat same-sex unions as marriages. “It seems to me very likely that, in the coming years, schools and universities that accept public funds and support will be required—as a condition of those funds—to have nondiscrimination rules that forbid discrimination on sexual-orientation grounds,” One such scholar, a professor who oversees the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame’s law school, told The Atlantic. “And, these rules will not distinguish between sexual-orientation discrimination and non-recognition of same-sex marriages.”

The second most powerful Democratic Senator has publicly stated he’s not sure whether such schools should be stripped of their tax-exempt status. When the Weekly Standard asked, “should religious protections extend beyond houses of worship to, say, religious schools that require employees to affirm their faith’s teaching about marriage?” Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois responded: “Getting into a challenging area, and I don’t have a quick answer to you. I’ll have to think about it long and hard.” Many Americans, particularly African-American Christians like Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, are losing their livelihoods, at least in part because they privately support natural marriage.

When no less a distinguished legal expert than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, has pointed to the serious religious liberty consequences that may stem from the Court’s redefinition of marriage, it is time to take the need for new conscience protections seriously. “Today’s decision . . . creates serious questions about religious liberty . . . Indeed the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts. Millions of Americans can disagree over the definition of marriage, however, it is essential that the millions of Americans who support natural marriage are not punished by the Federal government for their support for marriage as it has been understood for millennia.

We ask, therefore, for your public assurance that you would prioritize passing the First Amendment Defense Act in the first 100 days of your administration.

Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.