Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) appeared on the second episode of “Candidate Conversations 2016” yesterday on EWTN News. This was the second of several interviews with 2016 candidates conducted by Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and founder of American Principles Project.
“Candidate Conversations 2016” is the first program of its kind — a series of televised one-on-one interviews with presidential candidates, specifically targeted to Christian voters. Professor George sits down for one-on-one discussions with the candidates on important topics including religious liberty, marriage, life, the dignity of the person, restoring prosperity and economic opportunity, education, immigration, and the struggles facing everyday Americans and their families.
Professor George asked Governor Huckabee (at 34:15), “What can we do — what should we do — what would you do as President of the United States to protect our fundamental religious liberty against these assaults?”
Huckabee replied, “Well, I’ve outlined it on several occasions and written about this on my website, mikehuckabee.com. Here’s what I would do. First of all, [I’d] make sure I have an Attorney General who understood his constitutional duty, as would I as President, and we would protect the First Amendment rights of every American. That would mean that if a photographer had a conscientious religious objection to photographing a same-sex marriage, rather than go and to stand with a local government in fining her or putting her out of business, we would go and use the full resources of the Justice Department and the federal government to protect her religious liberty. Same thing true would be a caterer or a Christian school — if the administrator of a Christian university says we don’t provide student housing for same-sex couples, they would, under today’s kind of society, they would get sued. We would go on the side and defend them. We would make sure that every chaplain in the military, every military member in uniform were allowed to carry a bible, were allowed to pray, chaplains could council people according to the dictates of their faith and conscience rather than according to the dictates of the government.”
Huckabee said, “The one thing about the First Amendment that ought to be so sacred to us is that it is a restriction — not upon me as an individual believer — the restriction is on the government. And this is the case with every one of the Bill of Rights, and sometimes I wonder, have we read those lately? Did we go back and — because in every case, it tells the government what it can’t do to take my freedom away, whether they can’t come in my house and quarter and live there — they can’t just come in and look around because they thought they might want to find something — they can’t tell a newspaper that it can’t publish something, First Amendment, they can’t tell several of us that we can’t gather together. It empowers me as a citizen, it guarantees my rights, and it restricts the government. What we’re seeing today is a government that is restricting the rights of individuals, whether it’s a county clerk in Kentucky, whether it’s Baronelle Stutzman, the florist up in Washington State, or whether it’s Melissa and Aaron Klein, the caterers in Oregon, we see this over and over.
“Here’s one of the things that I find most ironic,” Huckabee continued. “I’ve been to Guantanamo, I’ve been to ‘Gitmo’ and I’ve observed the way in which we detain suspected terrorists — the most hardcore, these are not people that are there for singing too loud in church last Sunday. These people are either there because they killed Americans or plotted to kill Americans. These are bad people. I went there, and the first thing I noticed was what an unbelievably modern and well-appointed detainee center that we have there. My prison director was with me at the time and we looked at each other and said, ‘I hope none of our inmates ever see this place, they’ll all want to transfer!’ But the lengths to which we went to accommodate the Muslim detainees — painting arrows in their cells so they would know which way they needed to [face] toward Mecca. We gave them prayer rugs — five times a day they could stop whatever they were doing for their prayers. We provided them special halal meals that cost three times what the meals cost that we provided to the soldiers who were guarding these people. It was unbelievable the level of accommodation that we went to. Now my point is, if we can accommodate suspected murderers of Americans who are detained for warring against this country, are you honestly going to tell me that we cannot find a way to accommodate and account for the religious convictions of an elected county clerk in Kentucky who instead was put in jail?”
George also asked, “Would you prioritize passage of the FADA — the First Amendment Defense Act — which would protect people against discrimination or persecution by government based on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, would that be in a Huckabee presidency part of your first 100 days?”
Huckabee responded, “Yes, because I think it is something that ought to be low-hanging fruit, not that it would be — I think it would be a battle — but it ought to be fairly easy to convince the American public that you’re not creating something new — not a new right — you’re simply wanting to codify the existing right that we have in the Constitution.”
In the first episode of Candidate Conversations 2016, Professor George interviewed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). You can watch the full interview with Senator Cruz here.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.