COMPASS: Senate Respect For Marriage Act threatens religious liberty

November 21st, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. It’s Thanksgiving week, so Congress is out of session.

Former president Donald Trump last week officially declared he will seek re-election to the presidency in 2024. And by week’s end, his Twitter account was officially reinstated after over 15 million people voted approvingly in a Twitter poll put out by the company’s CEO, Elon Musk. (Trump has said he won’t be coming back to Twitter, and will remain on Truth Social.)

Trump’s announcement has sparked a predictable feeding frenzy in the corporate media on the right and on the left. I’ve largely ignored all of that, because, as my friend Emily Jashinsky sagely pointed out last week: the media, conservative or otherwise, don’t get to pick the president. The voters do. And if they haven’t learned that after 2016, they will continue their descent into irrelevance.

What is worth watching, however, are the actions of the Department of Justice, which swiftly moved to continue the prosecution of the sitting president’s chief political rival. More from Tristan Justice at The Federalist:

The appointment of a second special counsel to sic on Trump is the natural response of a Democrat to the ex-president’s pursuit of a second term. The Russia hoax failed. The impeachment over a fabricated scandal in Ukraine failed. Prosecution over the Emoluments Clause failed, and the Jan. 6 Committee failed to serve the long-sought indictment that’s become the top item on the Democrats’ policy agenda for six years.

Now that the Select Committee’s days are numbered with an incoming Republican majority, Garland’s move to bring a special counsel into the mix is a move to cement the Jan. 6 inquiry into a forever investigation. But while the panel admitted their investigation was all about last week’s midterms in March, Garland is pretending his department’s politized investigations are all about public integrity…

Had Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, the attorney general might have a leg to stand on. Instead, the nation’s chief law enforcement official has spent the last two years covering for the incumbent Democratic president while dispatching agents on political enemies, including parents concerned over inappropriate content presented in their children’s classrooms.

Turning now to the Senate – before leaving last week, 12 Republican senators joined Democrats in greenlighting The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to remove the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law which was rendered inoperative by the Supreme Court’s Windsor and Obergefell decisions.

Many on the conservative and libertarian right seem to think this bill, by saying the words “religious liberty,” protects the exercise thereof.  It cannot be stated in clearer terms: this bill does no such thing, and by failing to state in explicit terms that the tax exempt status of nonprofits and religious organizations will be protected, opens up the door to perpetual harassment of organizations and individuals with traditional views of marriage.

The upshot, in other words, is that The Respect for Marriage Act will make Jack Philips out of us all. Philips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakes, is stuck in perpetual litigation for his traditional views on marriage – litigation brought with the sole intent of bankrupting and destroying him. Does he have freedom of religion? By law, he does, which is why he continues to win in court – even at the Supreme Court. But in practice, having to spend thousands of dollars and a decade in continued litigation to defend the ability to exercise your God-given right as an American is hardly religious freedom as the Founders understood it. And that distinction is exactly what is on the line with The Respect for Marriage Act.

The Senate is only a third of the way through passage of the bill. Senator Mike Lee has an amendment that would actually meaningfully protect the free exercise of religion. He has joined 20 other GOP senators in asking their colleagues not to provide further votes for cloture unless his amendment is adopted.

Regardless, the bill itself makes a mess of what it says it intends to protect. For more on the bill’s flawed construct, how it will lead to the harassment of individuals and nonprofits by the IRS and private litigants, and how it opens the door to approval of polygamy (!), see the following:

From all of us at CPI, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are so grateful to be in partnership with each and every one of you! 

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One More Thing…

I recently joined CPI’s President & CEO Ed Corrigan and CPI Senior Partner Mark Meadows at a forum on House rules changes, hosted by the House Freedom Caucus. You can read my statement here, and watch the proceedings here.

And if you missed it, CPI partner organization the American Accountability Foundation has been locked out of their Twitter account for tweeting out public documents which raise suspicions that NBC reporter Yamiche Alcindor may be committing voter fraud. Paging Elon!