After taking a surprising lead in the faith-focused Iowa caucuses, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is now being discussed as a Democratic Party presidential frontrunner. But despite being a self-proclaimed Christian, Buttigieg’s rhetoric and policies undermine rather than support religious liberty.
Buttigieg has unabashedly embraced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) Equality Act legislation that would strike a massive blow to our nation’s religious institutions. Specifically, the Equality Act would create a federally protected status for gender identity, defined as the “gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
Any faith-based establishment — including churches, schools, and hospitals — with theological beliefs in conflict with this definition would likely face expensive legal battles, lawsuits, and public scrutiny. Case in point: A Catholic hospital was sued last year by the ACLU because it would not perform a risky sex-change surgery on a 16-year-old girl.
Unfortunately, the Equality Act would coerce health care and mental health professionals into providing dangerous gender-transition treatments for young children and adolescents, counter to their medical advice — and for many, against their religious beliefs.
Just as alarming, Buttigieg has imposed litmus tests based on what he deems theologically acceptable. We witnessed this first-hand when the former South Bend, Indiana mayor attacked Second Lady Karen Pence for teaching at a private school that adheres to her Judeo-Christian belief about marriage. In response, Buttigieg ridiculed the Pences and likened their religious views to that of “Pharisees.”
As a private institution, like thousands of such private schools that have long existed in our country, the school where Mrs. Pence teaches has the right to govern its school according to its own religious beliefs. Islamic schools, Buddhist schools, and Jewish schools are also free to do so under the United States Constitution.
As an individual running for our nation’s highest office, Pete Buttigieg is signaling how a Buttigieg administration would handle religious liberty. And his signals should frighten many.
When explicitly asked about religious freedom, Buttigieg claimed, “the right to religious freedom ends where religion is being used as an excuse to harm other people.” He gave no further explanation of his definition of “harm,” placing the ironclad religious protections that our nation has valued for generations at considerable risk under his vague interpretation.
Our founding charter, the Constitution, defends and supports the belief that America was established on the freedom of ALL religions. Furthermore, it is not just freedom afforded to spiritual individuals to put their trust in religious faith or belief. Rather, it is an essential aspect of a well-ordered society to respect that human beings are made in the image of a higher power and should be able to order their lives around their personal religious beliefs.
Mayor Pete has ignored that right, choosing instead to weaponize his beliefs as a litmus test against the beliefs of others. If an individual or entity gets in his way, he will marginalize them — no questions asked.
This complete disregard for our nation’s freedom isn’t how freedom actually works. Our rights aren’t good enough when a leader deems them acceptable to their standards; they stand on their own because the Constitution says so.
Ms. Vought is executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. Her husband, Russ, is acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.