Last week, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine faced a great deal of scrutiny over his apparent hypocrisy on the issues of abortion and religious liberty. Despite the bad press, however, Kaine is continuing to speak out of both sides of his mouth on social issues.
At a campaign stop on Monday in his home state of Virginia, Kaine attacked Trump for “eroding religious liberty.”
“Donald Trump says we got to treat people differently, keep people out of the country, impose tests on folks if they’re Muslim,” he said. “That would be a major erosion of a fundamental value in this nation, a value that frankly, we are like the lighthouse that is holding that out as a beacon to people around the world.”
“So many people live in countries around the world where they are punished because of how they worship, they are oppressed because they’re a religious minority or maybe because they choose not to believe,” Kaine continued. “And they look at us as the place, we might be able to be like them one day where we can live in the same neighborhood, go to the same schools, you know go to work together and have different faiths but get along just fine.”
These comments display a pleasant sentiment. However, despite Kaine’s message of tolerance and common citizenship, he has a truly abysmal record on religious liberty issues himself.
For instance, Senator Kaine has co-sponsored the Equality Act, a bill which would treat traditional Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, and Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality as akin to racism and would force religious florists, bakers, photographers and others to violate their consciences or lose their livelihoods if they object to participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Kaine also signed onto an amicus brief sent to the Supreme Court encouraging justices to engage in judicial activism and to read into the law “nondiscrimination” policies advancing LGBT acceptance at the expense of conscience exemptions for religious Americans.
Kaine has consistently supported legislation, regulations and legal action that do exactly what he accuses Trump of wanting to do — punish groups for their unpopular religious beliefs. Based on his record, Kaine has absolutely no right to attack Trump on religious liberty issues.
Thomas Jefferson served as governor of Virginia and Vice President of the United States — positions that Kaine has held and is seeking, respectively. Among his innumerable accomplishments, Jefferson was perhaps proudest of expanding protections for religious liberty and securing freedom of conscience.
In an 1803 letter to a Massachusetts politician, Jefferson wrote, “I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of enquiry into the religious opinions of others. On the contrary we are bound, you, I, & every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience.”
In an 1809 letter to a religious group in Connecticut, Jefferson wrote, “No provision in our constitution ought to be dearer to man, than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”
In other words, Jefferson — and the other Founders — thought it the purpose of the Constitution, the First Amendment, and other statues on religious freedom to restrain the ability of men like Tim Kaine to interfere with Americans’ natural rights, particularly their rights of conscience.
Before criticizing Donald Trump’s rhetoric for insufficient piety to the country’s principles, Kaine would do well to remember that his career-long, all-out ideological assault on the free exercise of religion is inimical to the American values he claims to cherish.
Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.