Ben Sasse, the Republican candidate for Nebraska’s open Senate seat, provides a good example of what happens when you take a good idea, like the free exercise of religion, and run headlong into a wall with it because, well, you probably just haven’t throught through the consequences of what you’re advocating.
Sasse is so fundamentally opposed to Obamacare that he’s decided to speak with as much hyperbole as he can muster. And so it’s religious liberty or death for him.
Now, to be fair, he probably doesn’t actually believe that “Government cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances.” It’s just something he wrote down on his campaign website to show how much he hates Obamacare. After all, the position he’s putting forward here is sufficiently outside the mainstream that it’s almost exclusively found amongst anti-government wingnuts; it’s generally not what anyone would expect from the presumptive junior senator from the state I call home. As ThinkProgress points out, it’s not even the position of the people who are suing the government over precisely this issue:
[E]ven the plaintiffs before the Supreme Court acknowledge that religious liberty is not an absolute right to violate any law at any time. As the crafting chain Hobby Lobby says in its brief to the justices, the government may limit religious believers actions when it uses “‘the least restrictive means of furthering’ a ‘compelling governmental interest.’” This is the standard set by federal law, although there is some uncertainty about how the justices will interpret this legal standard in its Hobby Lobby decision.
I would hope that most people in this country understand that there are times when one cannot simply use “religious freedom” as a defense for violating some law or another. I assume Ben Sasse is actually on this list, despite his rhetoric. Not long ago, I would’ve guessed that it was a typo, that no one would actually advocate for this sort of thing.
But I know that this rhetoric will likely appeal to voters who like tough talk and hate Obamacare. It’ll appeal to voters who don’t understand that birth control isn’t the same thing as abortion. And it’ll appeal to voters who think wedding photographers should be allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
But it’s so impossibly wrong-headed to think this way. And it ought to be incredibly embarrassing to Nebraskans that the guy who’s advocating for ignoring any law you want if you think your religion demands it is very likely to be our next senator.