Former Gov. Jim Gilmore Discusses the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) on EWTN News

Former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-Va.) appeared on the fourth episode of “Candidate Conversations 2016” last Sunday on EWTN News. This was the fourth of several interviews with 2016 candidates conducted by Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and founder of American Principles Project, and Dr. Matthew J. Franck, Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute.

“Candidate Conversations 2016” is the first program of its kind — a series of televised one-on-one interviews with presidential candidates, specifically targeted to Christian voters. Professor George and Dr. Franck sat down for one-on-one discussions with the candidates on important topics including religious liberty, marriage, life, the dignity of the person, restoring prosperity and economic opportunity, education, immigration, and the struggles facing everyday Americans and their families.

You can watch a key exchange from the interview with Governor Gilmore below:

Franck and Gilmore discussed religious liberty at length. The full transcript of their conversation is below:

FRANCK: Something came to light in that same-sex marriage ruling that is of grave concern to many Americans today — to Catholics, and not only to Catholics, but our bishops, the Catholic bishops, have expressed deep concerns over the future of religious liberty and especially the emerging attempt to punish those of us who believe marriage is between a husband and a wife — a man and a woman. So Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and others have been penalized or fired from government jobs — our adoption agencies have been excluded from helping orphan children find good homes — this has happened not just to Catholic Charities, but also to Evangelical Lutheran Children Services Agencies, and small business owners, as I’m sure you’ve heard, have faced bankrupting fines from government agencies at the state level for declining to facilitate same-sex ceremonies — bakers, photographers, florists. In his dissent in the Obergefell case on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts, no wild-eyed radical he, said, and I’m quoting now, “The Solicitor General candidly acknowledged…” — this was during oral arguments — “…that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. There is little doubt…” the Chief Justice went on, “…that these and similar questions will soon be before this court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.” End of quote from Chief Justice Roberts. Now, these are serious religious liberty threats, according to our bishops, according to the Chief Justice himself, as President what would you do to protect the rights of Christians and other dissenters from the new normal on gay marriage? Would you specifically seek passage of and sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which is now under consideration in the Congress?

GILMORE: I’m going to look at that Act and withhold a decision of whether I’m going to give a blanket endorsement of that Act at this time, but I’ll instead talk about some principles that I think may give your viewers some piece of mind. Just as we talked at the very beginning of this conversation about government’s instinct right now to force people to do things, to regulate people, to make them — to make the society do things the way the government wants it to do — and my very great disapproval of that. That’s the essence of this question that you’re asking me right now. I don’t believe people should be forced. I don’t think government should be forcing. I believe this: I believe the Catholic institutions, frankly all religious institutions, if they have a tax-exempt status it’s because they’re a legitimate church and institution of faith. To then violate that by a threat of the reduction of the tax-exempt status because the faith institution or the church won’t do exactly what the government says I think is wrong and is immoral and is frankly probably illegal. It’s a forcing — using the force — to have a particular philosophy that I disapprove of. So I’m not in favor, for example, of people in commercial activities who have a legitimate faith-based objection, to being forced or penalized or fined or lose their jobs or something of this nature — I’m not in favor of that. And as the President, I think I could speak out against that. Now let me be real clear. Government officials who say they’re going to obey the law and take an oath to obey the law must obey the law or step away from that particular role and take a different role in society that is perhaps more amenable to their points of view.

FRANCK: Should some accommodation be made to enable them to step aside without sacrificing their position in a government agency? Say the Kim Davis situation in Kentucky, for instance — if Kentucky law permitted her to step away and let clerks in her office issue the marriage licenses that were at issue in her case several months ago, would that be an appropriate solution? Or should she simply be held to a standard that this is the law, you must involve yourself personally because you’re an oath-swearing public official?

GILMORE: I believe that an accommodation could be made so long as the law was adhered to by the appropriate official office. I believe that that would work. But that would frankly be up to the authorities that elected her or put her in office as to whether or not she should continue to hold that kind of office.

FRANCK: Or some relevant provision of Kentucky law that might come to her aid perhaps?

GILMORE: Perhaps so. The main thing is that, look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m going to be a spokesman for the violation of the law and the Constitution because I’m not. I’m just telling you I’m not. People who take an oath of office — and I’ve taken many, and I’ve sworn to uphold the law — have to uphold the law. Now that doesn’t mean she has to be forced to do it as long as she doesn’t impede her office from doing it appropriately and the appropriate authority is done.

FRANCK: In recent days, there was a case related to these. It’s happening now in Massachusetts actually. There’s a trial court in the Massachusetts state judicial system which has told an order of religious sisters in the Catholic church who run a girls high school that they must hire a man who is in a same-sex marriage with another man, something that wasn’t divulged until they made an offer to him to come on the staff of their school, I think in some capacity outside the capacity, but on the staff of their school, and they withdrew the offer of employment to him when he divulged in some forms he was filling out that he was in a same-sex marriage. Now a Massachusetts court has told these sisters they must employ him or face the consequences of ‘discriminating’, as it’s put. So, I mean, we’re seeing this future coming down the pike at us as well, where the state or private litigants invoking discrimination statutes are coming after religious institutions and people in the private sector who have religious qualms about same-sex marriage. What should we — what principles should guide us in cases like this?

GILMORE: That’s the most troubling example you could possibly have put forward because the private school, the private parochial school, ought to be able to behave itself in accordance with the tenets of its faith. It ought to be able to do that. We have a long body of law, though, where we have disapproved of people discriminating on the basis of, for example, race, we would never permit that. We would never permit that in the society. So now we have to face this challenge of what do you do when it is a faith-based objection based upon biblical principles or the scriptures as opposed to, for example, a racial discrimination. I think these are matters that are yet to be determined.

You can watch the full interview with Governor Gilmore here.

In the first episode of Candidate Conversations 2016, Professor George interviewed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). You can watch the full interview with Senator Cruz here.

In the second episode of Candidate Conversations 2016, Professor George interviewed former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.). Watch the full interview with Governor Huckabee here.

In the third episode of Candidate Conversations 2016, Dr. Franck interviewed former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Watch the full interview with Senator Santorum here.

Dr. Ben Carson will be the next candidate to appear on Candidate Conversations 2016. His interview with Dr. Franck will air on EWTN News at 10:00 A.M. EST on Sunday.

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