While Ted Cruz is holding rallies for religious liberty in Iowa and confronting Hollywood celebrities who want to redefine conscience protections as discrimination, Gov. Chris Christie in Iowa has thrown in his lot with the government functionaries throwing huge bankrupting fines at people like Melissa Klein of Sweetcakes, or Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist.
Christie cloaked his failure to respect freedom or protect conscience from government oppression under the idea he is the law-and-order candidate: “When I take an oath of office as Governor, my oath of office is to enforce the laws of the state of New Jersey. Not the laws I like or the laws I agree with but all the laws. . . Religious organizations absolutely should be protected, everyone should freely practice their religion the way they see fit, but businesses should not be allowed to discriminate, no.”
I found this story on the Human Rights Campaign website, so I hold open a faint hope that Christie was misquoted and will repudiate this ugly willingness to use government power to put the little guy out of business. But given Christie’s use of this exact same rhetoric right after Obergefell to explain why he planned to force every New Jersey marriage clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses, I don’t hold out much hope.
I do believe in the rule of law. If a court orders you to offer same-sex wedding licenses, then the office of the government must find a way to do so. Kentucky marriage clerks cannot bar the door to legal civil marriages. But the individual employee need not become a mere functionary following “orders.” The office can find another person willing to sign the license, with small effort, in every town in America. And small business people in a free and abundant marketplace need not be forced to cater a gay wedding (or any other wedding) or lose their livelihoods unless the use of such coercion to silence and suppress freedom is the point. That is really up to every gay marriage supporter in America to decide: is imposing a new morality by government coercion a bug or a feature of same-sex marriage.
According to HRC, Christie now clearly sides with those wanting to use government power to coerce gay marriage dissenters.
Iowa voters must ask Christie if he really means to use government to punish traditional believers. And here’s the even more important task: they must ask Trump the same question, for he has not yet answered where he stands.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.