‘Moderate’ House Republicans literally walk out on push to protect religious freedom

‘Moderate’ House Republicans literally walk out on push to protect religious freedom
The Speaker, Dems' new favorite Republican, pumps iron for a campaign-trail photo shoot in 2012. (Image: Time, Gregg Segal via ABC News)

Citing GOP members of the House, Politico reports that angry “moderates” walked out Thursday on a GOP conference meeting, in which Representative Rick Allen (R-GA) opened with prayer and argued against a Democratic anti-religious freedom amendment added to an energy and water appropriation bill.

The amendment is the same one Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) got added to the defense authorization bill last week.  Deceptively described as a “gay rights” or “LGBT rights” measure, the Maloney amendment institutes – through the back door – Obama’s executive order requiring that defense and other federal contractors be punished if they don’t meet the gender-identity hiring criteria desired by radical activists.

This executive order would have the effect of denying religious freedom to, among others, religious-services contractors who do business with the Department of Defense (see last link).  It would hamper military chaplains in their ability to contract for the materials and services they need to support the troops.

Republicans in the House added an amendment to the defense authorization bill (NDAA) clarifying that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is still the governing document for protecting people against discrimination.  Title VII says nothing about “gender identity,” and Obama has exceeded his authority with his executive order adding “gender identity” as a basis for CRA protection.  Only Congress can make such a change.  Reaffirming this point is the Republicans’ way of ensuring that defense contractors won’t be hounded by activists over “compliance” with the Obama EO.

The Maloney amendment was meant to countermand that GOP amendment, but in a dramatic 213-212 vote, was killed as an addition to the NDAA last week.

So the determined Democrats attached it to the energy and water appropriation bill the House was working on this week.  The appropriation bill was just defeated in a lopsided 305-112 vote (meaning a lot of Democrats voted against it too, although mostly for other reasons).

Politico gives a lot of space to the procedural point that Speaker Paul Ryan is allowing more such amendments to be attached by both parties in the bill-management process.  And that’s a meaningful point, to be sure.

But notice how Politico’s framing of the event this week leaves the predictable impression that Republican resistance to “LGBT rights” created a menace to the “spending” bill.

It’s the usual implication of partisan irresponsibility by Republicans.  And yet (a) Democrats voted against the bill in large numbers as well, and (b) the Republicans are correct, on the all-important constitutional point that Obama has exceeded his authority, and the House should not endorse his overreach via an amendment to an appropriations bill.

All that said, what caught my eye were these passages in the Politico report:

But when Democrats reintroduced the amendment on Wednesday night, Republicans accepted it because amendment sponsor Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) allowed Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) to add a line allowing for exceptions as “required by the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.”

Republicans believed that additional line would assure their conference that this was no poison pill.

An alert 12-year-old could now tell you that the only “protection” this offers for anyone’s religious views is the guarantee that you can have your life ruined through a lengthy lawsuit crawling through the courts, rather than merely having it ruined through a more immediate form of punishment.  Most of the House GOP members weren’t convinced.

The breakdown of the appropriations process started earlier in the day when Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) opened the weekly GOP conference meeting with a prayer about the LGBT issue, prior to the vote. He read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles if they supported the bill.

Moderate Republicans were stunned by Allen’s remarks, and some walked out of the meeting in protest, according to GOP lawmakers.

“A good number of members were furious,” said one Republican, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “There was some Scripture that was read and the like. … Nothing good was going to happen to those that supported [the LGBT provision]. A good number of members were furious.”

So, to summarize:  the GOP “moderates” were furious that someone wanted to pray and think with moral seriousness about protecting the people’s right to their religious principles, and whether congressmen might be violating their own.

But they were fine with consigning who knows how many Americans, their businesses, and their religious liberty to financial death through slow torture in the courts, by accepting the Maloney amendment, but attaching language which only the Supreme Court could ultimately interpret for us – when the Supreme Court maybe got around to it.

And today’s “moderates” wonder why the voters are so disgusted with them.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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