The Case Against Kasich on Religious Liberty

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (photo credit: Michael Vadon via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (photo credit: Michael Vadon via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

I gave John Kasich a D-minus for his response to Bret Baier’s question, “Do gay marriage dissenters have rights?”

Kasich’s plea in response for tolerance and common sense was a very welcome change in tone, but what Kasich did not offer, and has never offered, was any action he would take to protect the rights of gay marriage dissenters.

When The Pulse asked candidates whether they would sign the First Amendment Defense Act within the first 100 days of their term, Governor Kasich did not respond.

And truthfully, he has a long and consistent history of siding with the Left on the rights of gay marriage dissenters, starting with Obergefell, as I pointed out in our report card:

“Look, I think we all have to see how this develops.  I believe fundamentally that religious institutions have got to be given protection.  I have friends that are gay, I don’t have any of them say, ‘well you’re wrong’.  I don’t hear that at all.  Hopefully this is going to go smoothly.  If not, and if problems arise, and if people feel as though they aren’t being respected, well then we’ll have to deal with it.  But let’s not get carried away.  Let’s just wait to see what happens here.”

Memo to John Kasich: when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says there’s a serious problem, maybe you should at least pretend to care?

“Kasich’s response suggests he will do nothing to fight for the rights of traditional believers. And he talks down to us to boot,” I wrote at the time, and that has proven to be true.

When Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was jailed after Kentucky’s then-Democratic governor refused to offer accommodations, Kasich sided with her jailers, in another fantastically patronizing response:

Now, I respect the fact that this lady doesn’t agree, but she’s also a government employee. She’s not running a church. I wouldn’t force this on a church, but in terms of her responsibility I think she has to comply. I don’t think — I don’t like the fact that she’s sitting in a jail, that’s just absurd as well. But I think she should follow the law.

At an event in Virginia in late February, Kasich slandered those florists, bakers and photographers who are risking their livelihoods by refusing to serve gay weddings by pretending they are unwilling to serve gay people generally:

“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,” he said. “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.”

Nobody is refusing to bake a cupcake, Gov. Kasich. This is you, a big, powerful and successful politician, piling on the little guy to win applause from I am not sure whom — Paul Singer?

Nor was this a one-off mistake.

In the February 26 debate, he once again demeaned and defamed Barronelle Stutzman, Melissa Klein, and Elaine Huguenin, telling Hugh Hewitt:

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.

So his March 3 debate was an improvement in the sense that he tried to express some sympathy for the people losing their family livelihoods over gay marriage. But once again, he refused to say what he would do about it:

Well, look, first of all, I try to be a man of faith every day as best as I can, and I try to focus in my faith on the dos and I think the don’ts will take care of themselves once I get the dos right, which is humility, and loving my enemy, and caring for my neighbor.

But secondly, look, you’re in the commerce business, you want to sell somebody a cupcake, great. OK? But now if they ask you to participate in something you really don’t like, that’s a whole ‘nother issue, OK? Another issue.

Here’s what I’d like to see happen. The Supreme Court ruled, I don’t agree with the ruling. I’m of favor of marriage between — you know, traditional marriage, a man and a woman. What I hope was going to happen after the Supreme Court ruling is things would settle down.

If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding, and he says, I’d rather not do it, find another photographer, don’t sue them in court. You know what, the problem is in our country — in our country, we need to learn to respect each other and be a little bit more tolerant for one another.

And at the end of the day, don’t go to court. Can’t we have common sense in America?

Gov. Kasich, that’s what I’d like to see happen, too. But it is not happening. Instead, President Obama is redefining the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to put gay marriage dissenters in the same position, legally, culturally and morally, as racists and bigots.

Gov. Kasich, your pattern is clear: minimizing or misrepresenting the concerns of those whose livelihoods are being threatened for not facilitating same-sex marriages, ridiculing them and insinuating these people do not understand their faith, and flatly refusing to do anything to help them, short of protecting (though it’s unclear how) actual churches if they are threatened.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.