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Montana Republicans Can Choose Religious Freedom or Religious Discrimination

by Matthew Monforton Read Profile arrow_right_alt

To the delight of Montana’s conservative Christians, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), who is running for governor, just selected Kristen Juras as his running mate.  Juras previously ran for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court in 2016.  A centerpiece of her campaign was what she called “the conflict between the right of the free exercise of religion and the right determined by the U.S. Supreme Court of marriage of same-sex spouses.” Juras suggested that “legislators should be trying to face this conflict and establish parameters and grant exemptions based upon religious beliefs.”

Juras’ opponent blasted her for appealing to “bigots and haters,” i.e., Christian business owners like Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop and one of the few in this country who have had the courage to challenge a government-inspired LGBT rage mob.  

Juras has been an ardent defender of religious liberty. (Full disclosure: Kristen is a close friend and also my co-counsel in a class-action lawsuit against the City of Billings, so I won’t pretend to have an unbiased opinion of her.).  So, of course, the MTGOP refused to lift a finger to help her.  And, of course, Montana Democrats went all out to aid her opponent.  She lost.

Gianforte’s bold selection of Juras as his running mate puts religious liberty squarely at issue in the gubernatorial race – and offers hope that the days of the MTGOP establishment and the Chamber of Commerce squelching religious liberty are over. (Full disclosure: Kristen is a close friend and also my co-counsel in a class-action lawsuit against the City of Billings, so I won’t pretend to have an unbiased opinion of her.). 

By contrast, Attorney General Tim Fox selected Jon Knokey as his running mate last month.  Knokey told VoteSmart.org that he supports same-sex marriage and inclusion of sexual orientation in Montana’s so-called “Human Rights Act,” which would expose every Christian business owner in Montana to the same government harassment that Colorado has inflicted upon Christians like Jack Phillips. 

And Knokey’s got a voting record to prove it, as I blogged about last month. Knokey bristled at my post, citing the fact that he helped start Journey Church here in Bozeman and met his wife at a Bible study.

Whether or not Knokey’s views represent those of his local church, they sound an awfully lot like the first 30 seconds of congressional testimony given last week from this “woman of faith”:

Knokey’s advocacy of laws penalizing Christian business owners follows logically if you believe same-sax marriage and transgenderism are compatible with Christianity.  Taking this “enlightened” view of Christianity to heart means that the Jack Phillipses and Christian thinkers of the past two thousand years are not only wrong but espousing views that are “hateful” and “discriminatory.”  So they deserve the punishment they’re getting.

The emergence of Republicans like Knokey who view religious liberty with the same lens as AOC and the Democratic Left is a particularly dangerous development because the former provide political cover for the latter.  Expect to see more of this as millennials who have abandoned orthodox Christianity rise in the GOP.     

Which is why Greg Gianforte’s selection of Kristen Juras for lieutenant governor is so important. The contrast between him and Fox on religious liberty could not be sharper – and the stakes for Bible-believing Christians could not be higher.  Montana’s GOP primary in June will demonstrate whether Republicans are still motivated by the Founder’s vision of government as a protector of religious liberty or, instead, are indifferent to the Left and its “Christian” allies twisting government into a persecutor of religious liberty.

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