When Illinois Republican Bruce Rauner first ran for governor in 2014, he promised that he had “no social issues agenda.” He explained to voters that he was solely focused on fixing Illinois’ fiscal mess. He won on that message.
And as Governor, he has followed through on his promise. He is in the thick of a yearlong budget standoff with the Illinois Legislature. Both the General Assembly and the Senate are supposedly held by Democratic super-majorities, although neither body has been able to pass a budget by a veto-proof majority. The entire situation has been ugly — one Peoria reporter has a nine-and-a-half inch long “budget beard” to show for it — but Rauner continues to hold his ground, vetoing all spending bills that don’t provide for a balanced budget.
He deserves a lot of credit for that. Republicans are known for being squishes, not stalwarts. Rauner is willingly taking on bad media coverage in order to try and fix what many consider to be an unsolvable fiscal crisis. Like his fellow Republican governor to the north, Scott Walker, Rauner has demonstrated that, when it comes to battling entrenched special interests and balancing the budget, he has real cajones.
But there is a problem with Rauner’s “no social issues agenda” pledge. What happens when the Democrats pass “social issue” legislation and send it to his desk? Rauner avoided responding to this question on the campaign trail, but now he will be forced to answer with a signature or a veto.
Last month, the Illinois House approved Senate Bill 1564, a bill that would redefine religious freedom, at least in the state of Illinois, and force medical professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion to… well, suck it up.
Currently, doctors who object to performing abortions because of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction are protected under Illinois law from being forced to violate their consciences.
This bill would upset this balance and force objecting doctors to refer or transfer their patients to abortion providers. Thus, this statute would require a physician to facilitate individuals obtaining abortions even if it violates that physician’s religious beliefs and makes him a party to an operation that he considers immoral or a sin.
Von Spakovsky makes a compelling case that this legislation violates both federal law and Illinois law and would surely be overturned in court. Perhaps. But in the meantime, pro-life doctors, who took the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm,” would be forced to materially cooperate in abortion, a procedure that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. This is, unequivocally, an attack on the very principle of religious freedom.
But there is good news. This terrible, no-good, unconstitutional bill is not yet law. Governor Rauner still has the opportunity to strike it down.
So can we get a veto, Governor?
Not having a social issues agenda means keeping the laws the same. Not having a social issues agenda means protecting the rights and protections that Illinoisans with sincerely held religious beliefs hold dear. Not having a social issues agenda means vetoing a bill that would both redefine the meaning of religious freedom and expand the business of abortion.
The Democrats in Springfield, who are attempting to redefine the very definition of religious freedom in order to expand the business of abortion, are the ones guilty of pushing a social issues agenda.
It’s a garbage bill, Governor. Please do the right thing and send it to the recycling bin. Pro-life and pro-religious freedom Illinoisans won’t forget it.
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.