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Pete Buttigieg: Religious Freedom 'Ends' When Religious Groups Refuse to Hire LGBTQ Employees

By Craig Bannister | February 25, 2020 | 12:43pm EST
Pete Buttigieg
(Getty Images/Sean Rayford)

Openly-gay Democrat presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg says he supports religious liberty – but, “not past the point where it is being used” by religious organizations to refuse to hire or serve LGBTQ people.

“That freedom ends where you begin to invoke it to harm other people” who violate your organization’s religious doctrine by not hiring or serving them, Buttigieg told a CNN town hall on Monday.

A woman who identified herself as “an LGBTQ American” asked Buttigieg how he, as president, would combat religious organizations like “faith-based foster and adoption programs that accept federal funding” while rejecting prospective parents whose “sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t align with the group’s religious values”:

“As an LGBTQ American, it's quite remarkable to be speaking to you on stage right now, so thank you. Our governor was recently granted a waiver for faith-based foster and adoption programs that accept federal funding allowing these programs to reject prospective parents if their sexual orientation or gender identity doesn't align with the group’s religious values. 

“This, ultimately, harms the children in their care and discriminates against the LGBTQ community. If elected, how do you intend to protect and uphold the separation of church and state and work for these children?”

“It's very simple. I believe that federal funding should never be used to discriminate. It is a basic principle,” Buttigieg replied.

“Like any other freedom,” religious freedom “ends where you begin to invoke it to harm other people” by refusing to hire them because their behavior violates the organization’s religious beliefs – in the same way that yelling “Fire” in a crowded space is illegal – Buttigieg said:

“And, here's how I think about religious freedom more broadly. I feel this way, both as a citizen and as a person of faith. Of course, it is so important to the fabric of the country that people of every religion and no religion can practice their faith to the best of their conscience. 

“But, like any other freedom, that freedom ends where you begin to invoke it to harm other people. Just as the freedom of speech, or any other freedom, is constrained by that. We all treasure our freedom of speech, but nobody here has the freedom to yell ‘Fire’ in this crowded space. 

“It is the same way with religious liberty. We respect, and I will fiercely defend, religious liberty. But, not past the point where it is being invoked as an excuse to harm other people through this kind of discrimination.”

Asked to clarify his answer, Buttigieg reiterated that religious institutions should lose their federal funding, even if they are charities helping the homeless:

CNN: “Mayor, just to be clear, do you believe that other religious and non-profits institutions like colleges and homeless charities should lose federal funding if they refuse to hire and serve LGBTQ people?”

Buttigieg: “Yes, if they are discriminating, then they should not be doing it with federal dollars.”

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