This week, presidential candidate and Governor of Ohio John Kasich answered with this cynical retort to the question of whether bakers, photographers, and florists with religious objections to same-sex marriage should have their religious liberty trampled upon by the government:
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. 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.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow could have given an answer like that.
Kasich’s comments are all the more baffling considering that he identifies himself as a Christian. He pleads empathy on the trail for the downtrodden and dispossessed. But on this, Governor Kasich forsakes his Christian brothers and sisters at a time when every sector of culture is colluding against them.
Now, score one point for protecting what happens inside the four walls of a church (though eerily dispiriting and similar to the Obama administration’s truncated “Freedom of Worship” rendering), but then deduct ten points for completely misunderstanding the nature of how faith guides and instructs every aspect of a person’s life and for obscuring the details of these cases he ignorantly glosses over.
I’ll point you to my friend Denny Burk’s analysis, which is spot-on. As Burk notes, Kasich oversimplifies the whole matter. This isn’t a question of serving gay people (status); it’s a question of whether private citizens must be compelled to use their creative services to participate in a service they find objectionable (conduct). This is a classic status-conduct distinction. None of these businesses object to serving gay people and have gladly done so.
Secondly, Kasich’s comment makes it seem like lawsuits are the faults of the business owners in these dilemmas. The truth of the matter is that the lawsuits aren’t the fault of the business owners. That’s the fault of litigious citizens looking to extract every pound of flesh from citizens who have a sincere, religious, moral, reasonable, and plausible objection to same-sex marriage. Instead of seeking out the multitudes of other companies that have no problem with same-sex marriage, the plaintiffs are making clear the truth that you and everyone else will be made to care. In this scenario, there’s no respect for difference; there’s no pluralism; and there’s no respect for conscience. Instead, Kasich affirms the enemies of conscience by downplaying the stakes involved—fundamental principles like freedom of conscience, and the truth that freedom of speech also means the freedom not to engage in speech that one finds objectionable.
Perhaps most disappointing, Kasich’s bluster betrays a sacramental worldview—on Christian vocation and Christian marriage. His comments suggest that private business is an amoral enterprise; and that citizens engage in commerce merely for financial reward. What a poor understanding of commerce and Christian vocation. He also betrays Christian Scripture and tradition for making marriage a province of the state and unaware that the beauty of marriage first and foremost emanates from the mind and will of God–and not five philosopher-kings on the Supreme Court.
UPDATE: At last night’s GOP debate, Governor Kasich doubled down on his ignorance concerning religious liberty. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I can understand giving Kasich a pass the first time around with his comments that I mentioned above. Perhaps he hadn’t thought the issue through when he went on the media. Perhaps he didn’t understand all that was at stake in forcing people of goodwill and sound beliefs into violating their conscience. But now that he’s on record, again, stating that photographers, florists, and bakers must use their creative talents to service events they believe are immoral or objectionable, John Kasich has declared himself an enemy of conscience and religious liberty. He fundamentally doesn’t get it, and is using the types of tactics one would expect from liberals. Only Kasich’s doomed, irrelevant, and no-hope campaign will overshadow his callous, dumpster-fire comments on religious liberty.