“Christians Need Not Apply.” What Carly Fiorina Gets Wrong About Religious Liberty.

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Republican Presidential hopeful, Carly Fiorina, was asked what she thought of the Kentucky Clerk of Courts who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of the law and a court order.  Here is what she said.

“First, I think that we must protect religious liberties with great passion and be willing to expend a lot of political capital to do so now because it’s clear religious liberty is under assault in many, many ways,” she said. “Having said that, when you are a government employee, I think you take on a different role. When you are a government employee as opposed to say, an employee of another kind of organization, then in essence, you are agreeing to act as an arm of the government.”

I appreciate the challenge of answering such a gotcha question on the fly, but to my mind, this answer is deeply, deeply flawed.  It essentially says, “Faithful, traditional, Christians need not apply for government office if they are unwilling to sacrifice their beliefs at the altar of what they believe are unjust laws.”  Fiorina’s first statement about “protecting religious liberty” is completely neutered by her second statement requiring anyone who disagreed with a law to resign.  Her answer is the literal definition of double-speak and it says a lot about her personal position on this issue.    If Ms. Fiorina–or any of the presidential hopefuls–wants to be a serious candidate, she is going to have to demonstrate considerably more awareness of the importance and role of the free exercise of religion in the marketplace.  Here is what I think she, or any other candidate who wants the religious vote, is going to need to say.

“What we see here is a person exercising her right to engage in civil disobedience. Civil disobedience, by its nature, makes civil society uncomfortable. It demands to be heard.  It insists that “I will NOT be ignored or discounted or disenfranchised.”  There are consequences to civil disobedience, sometimes even grave consequences, and this woman must be prepared to accept the consequences of her actions–like Thomas More– if her civil disobedience is to be anything but an affectation. But I respect her willingness to sacrifice herself in service of her beliefs–indeed, I respect EVERY citizens right to do the same– and I look forward to seeing how her conscience-driven actions advance the public dialog about how our country can practically apply the social changes that have been imposed upon us by judges who have claimed for themselves the right to legislate from the bench.”

Show me a candidate who has the guts and the wisdom to say this and I’ll show you a serious candidate who just might actually deserve to sit in the Oval Office.  Sadly, I haven’t seen one yet.