Pope Francis spoke on a number of hot button issues during his trip to the United States. On his way back to Rome, he added one more: the religious liberty of officials such as embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.
On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licenses to gays.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.
Earlier this month a county official in the state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.
Davis’s case has taken on national significance in the 2016 presidential campaign, with one Republican contender, Mike Huckabee, holding rallies in favor of Davis, a Apostolic Christian, who has since joined the Republican party.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said, speaking in Italian.
“And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right,” he added.
Francis said conscientious objection had to be respected in legal structures. “Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: ‘This right has merit, this one does not.'”
Many conservatives unfairly criticized Pope Francis during his America trip for supposedly avoiding important issues like life and marriage while focusing on liberal priorities such as the environment. That simply wasn’t the case. While the Pope was muted in his treatment of social issues during his speech to Congress in Washington, D.C., he spoke frequently about life and the family during other parts of his trip.
He has now added protecting religious liberty to the list of positions for which he advocated.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for American Principles in Action.