Gay Marriage

Jeb Bush Backtracks on Religious Liberty

The 2016 hopeful is vacillating in his support for Indiana's RFRA.


Jeb Bush
Gage Skidmore

Likely 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to have it both ways.

Earlier this week, Bush called the passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana "the right thing." The RFRA would have allowed businesses to point to their religious convictions as a defense against adhering to some laws. They might still be forced to go along, but at least they'd have the ability to ask a court to take their beliefs into consideration.

I say the law "would have" done those things, because—you may have heard—it's since been "updated" after a sustained backlash that included several large corporations threatening to pull their business from the state. Gov. Mike Pence ultimately asked the legislature to pass a "fix" clarifying that Indiana's RFRA may not be used to justify discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Like Pence, Bush seemed to have a change of heart that corresponded exactly with the popular outcry. Just days after coming out for the original version of the bill, he too clarified his stance—to add that it would probably need to be changed. "By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place," he said, adding that he also believes "we shouldn't discriminate based on sexual orientation."

Saying that we shouldn't discriminate is a bit of a weasel phrase. It could signify that Bush believes there ought to be laws criminalizing discrimination, or it could just be the statement of a personal belief—that discrimination is morally wrong even if it ought not be legislated against. I hope Bush meant the latter.

Unfortunately, the former is what most of the people threatening to boycott the state of Indiana were looking for—they want to make it a crime to turn away a customer on religious grounds. From a libertarian perspective, that position is highly problematic. As my colleagues Scott ShackfordRobby Soave, and Nick Gillespie (among many others) have all written, people should be free to decide with whom to associate—and that includes choosing not to accept someone's business. Not everyone who opposes gay marriage is a homophobe, and even if they were, as I've pointed out before, being a crappy person is not against the law.

But it's hard enough in the best of times to stand on principle against popular opinion. Right now, with an ascendant mobocracy demanding blood from anyone who won't publicly endorse their commitment to criminalizing those who disagree with them, Bush's backtracking should probably come as no surprise.

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  1. Question: If I declared that my religion requires me to engage in periodic human sacrifices of members of the Bush family, would anyone really object?

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  2. mobocracy

    I thought you made that word up. I feel edified.

  3. Is he really a presidential “hopeful”?

    1. Well, he’s hoping.

      But he’s going to be disappointed. He’s one of the Repubs who Hillary (hell, even Biden and probably even Warren) would beat.

  4. My goodness, has there ever been a candidate as exciting and inspiring as Jeb motherfuckin’ Bush?

    1. He’s got my attention!

    2. There was a poll of his supporters. Even they aren’t excited about his candidacy.

      1. If you’re excited by Bush or Clinton, you should seek medical attention immediately.

        1. Only if that excitement lasts for more than 4 hours.

      2. In a crowded field, the thing to have is not lots of supporters excited about you, but just to be acceptable to large numbers whose 1st or even 2nd choice you’re not. The main thing is to be inoffensive to as many as possible.

        1. So that counts Jeb out.

          1. Unfortunately it also counts out Rand Paul, who is the most palatable of the lot to me.

  5. Seriously, did Jeb fall asleep next to a pod? He was absolutely nothing like this guy when he was governor.

    1. Im from FL. I can assure you, Jeb has always been a shitstain.

      1. I don’t agree. I thought he was decent governor. Not that I agreed with everything he did (the Schiavo thing comes to mind), but he seemed more on the limited government and fiscal responsibility side of the equation back then. No libertarian, but better than any governor we’ve had since by a mile.

        Since being governor, though, he seems to have lurched leftwards, towards the embrace of the warmness and fuzziness of Leviathan.

  6. Jeb Bush also thinks Indiana’s titanium tax doesn’t go too far enough.

  7. The Bush Family, Slayer of Arabs.

  8. Amazing how the left is polishing their technique of bullying the R’s into taking whatever position the left decides they should.

    The party of stupid has no balls. I would love to meet one of these guys just so I could bully them into crying. Apparently all it takes is a couple of finger pokes and insults.

    1. I’m achieving a satori of indifference to progressive outrage.

    2. The funny thing is, a majority of people support the RFRA concept, and a larger majority oppose making it illegal to decline to serve gay people over your religious objections.

      So the Repubs are cowering and rushing to embrace the unpopular view.

      They’re so stupid, they can’t even get pandering right.

      A Repub who stood up and said “Look, the kind of bullying and threats of violence that caused these good people to lose their business has no place in a civilized society, and all of you who attacked them should be ashamed of yourselves.

      What’s more, if religious freedom means anything, its means being able to peacefully observe your religious beliefs in your life without being threatened by the state. Nobody should in this country should live in fear that practicing their religion will land them in jail.”

      While I’d like a more comprehensive defense of freedom of association and contract, we all know that’s electoral poison, so I don’t expect that from politicians. But I think a statement like the one above would be pretty well received by a lot of people.

      1. OK, but how many of that majority care such an awful lot about that particular aspect of RFRA that they’d be offended by kowtowing to the minority?

        These things are not that hard to figure out. If there’s even a small minority who oppose the view of the great majority of voters on some subject, and care enough to make a stink about it, while the great majority don’t consider it important enough to change their votes based on what you say about it as a candidate, you’d best cater to the vocal minority. The only counter-consider’n, which may be a factor the candidate should (and probably does, they’re pros, ya know) consider here is whether such a high proportion of that vocal minority are people who wouldn’t vote in your party’s primary anyway, or who would for or against you for other reasons no matter what, that you can safely ignore them.

    3. he is a centrist progressive just like his brother. Last true conservative republican president was Reagan.
      Every one since has been only slightly farther right than the democrats they run against. That is why people feel as if there are no choices on the Presidential level – you can choose the socialist progressive or the more centrist progressive but no conservative or libertarian or strict constitutionalist.

      Its always a choice between bad and disastrous. For the last 6 years we have had disastrous. Guess it is time to vote for bad again.

  9. My new theory is that America elects the biggest weasel in primaries, and then elects the POTUS candidate that is less weaselly than the other.

    Obama, McCain, and Romney were by far their party’s biggest users of weasel-words, and sadly Obama was the least weaselly of these 3. So there’s a certain art to becoming POTUS; once you get the nomination one has to dial down one’s own weaselness, or force the opponent to increase theirs. The Dem strategy of making Romney weasel out of his 47% comment was a successful example of the latter.

    The biggest POTUS-candidate weasel in recent memory, by far, was Mike Dukakis. Amazing how many weasels the state of Massachusetts produces.

    1. So, choose the lesser of two weasels?

      (thanks to Scott Adams for a prototype of this joke)

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  12. As my colleagues Scott Shackford, Robby Soave, and Nick Gillespie (among many others) have all written,….

    …from a perspective subtly nudging people toward shame for not promoting gay marriage.

    Fixed for you.

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