Worst Kasich Scenario for 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)

There are plenty of GOP presidential candidates competing hard for the social conservative vote. Governor John Kasich hasn’t been one of them. Since entering the race, the Buckeye leader has done his best to keep his distance from core values — until recently, when, like the rest of the country, he realized just how influential this half of the primary voting bloc is.

It was a wake-up call that coincided (not-so-coincidentally) with the November 3rd election, when voters pushed back on the Left’s radical idea of social change. The political backlash was so stunning that even the media wondered: “Have liberals lost the culture war?” Now, two weeks later, the candidates are trying to learn from the Matt Bevins of the party who turned their campaigns around just by emphasizing the issues the GOP Establishment ignored. In Kentucky, the man about to be sworn in as governor closed a double-digit gap simply by vowing to protect the religious liberty that his predecessor denied to clerks like Kim Davis.

Now, Governor Kasich is apparently trying to replicate that success by running to catch up with the social issues bandwagon. There’s just one problem: he’s spent the last several months selling the same principles out. That hasn’t deterred the Kasich team, which this week unveiled its plan for a special government agency whose sole purpose would be to promote Judeo-Christian values around the world. In particular, the governor explained, he wants to encourage a Christian-based belief system to four of the most volatile regions of the globe: Iran, China, Russia, and the rest of the Middle East. “In this vacuum of values,” he argued, “is it any wonder that we see bright, educated young people abandoning the West for the meaning they think they see in the extremists’ cause?” Among other things, the office would focus on preserving and expanding religious liberty, free speech, democracy, and other human rights.

The reality is, we don’t need a separate government agency to promote Christian values. What we need are government leaders who respect what the Constitution plainly states about our religious freedom. We don’t need a government to export the Christian religion — we need a government that will protect the rights of Americans in this country to live according to their orthodox faith. And there is nothing more fundamental to the Judeo-Christian faith than marriage — an institution that Kasich consistently surrenders.

In the first presidential debate in Cleveland, the governor tried to show off his moderate social credentials by insisting that “the court has ruled [on marriage], and I said we’ll accept it.” So if the court rules, the issue is settled? If the justices have the final word on marriage, would he say the same about Roe v. Wade in 1973? If so, he isn’t pro-life! And while he may be anxious to turn the page on the marriage debate, Americans certainly aren’t. Including most of his opponents. “Really?” an indignant Rick Santorum asked. “It’s time to ‘move on’ when the courts acts unconstitutionally? If you’re not willing to fight for the Constitution… why are you running for President as a Republican?”

As if that weren’t enough, Kasich refused to protect the rights of those like Kim Davis to have their orthodox religious views on marriage accommodated. If Kasich’s Ministry of Religion is going to reflect his attitude toward religious freedom, which he displayed when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was hauled off to jail, look for more of what we’ve seen from the Obama administration. “I respect the fact that the lady doesn’t agree, but she’s also a government employee — she’s not running a church. I think she has to comply,” Kasich said.

And Kim isn’t the only one suffering. Just look at the devastating fallout from the summer’s ruling. We’ve watched as curriculum fights break out over sexuality in the public schools, mourned as small businesses shut their doors in wedding disputes, marveled as polygamists sue for the same special privileges as homosexual activists, listened to government officials extol the virtues of open military transgenderism, fought the spike of small towns ordinances demanding that grown men have access to the same restrooms as little girls, and on and on. The last four months alone should make it clear that Governor Kasich cannot walk away from marriage and say he’s for protecting Judeo-Christian values.

Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.