In April, Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for president in his hometown of South Bend, Ind. As a nonprofit that prides itself on increasing public understanding of the First Amendment, we sought to determine where this candidate stands when it comes to protecting these important freedoms.
An essential building block and cornerstone of Buttigieg’s campaign is freedom. Yet, controversy surrounding his candidacy is deeply rooted in the debate surrounding religious liberty.
A hot topic in the news continues to be Buttigieg’s commitment to, or attacks on — depending who you ask — the freedom of religion.
“The chance to live a life of your choosing, in keeping with your values — that is freedom in its richest sense…This must be true for all of us, those of us who are LGBT, those of us who are people of faith, and the many, many of us who are both,” declared Buttigieg in his announcement speech.
Some believe that Buttigieg championing both his LGBTQ and religious identities will bridge the divide between enhancing LGBTQ rights and protecting the free exercise of religion for all.
Buttigieg’s critics find fault with his disapproval of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He defended his stance stating, “[It] appeared to me to be a license to harm others in the name of religion…It was to me a trashing not just of our sense of freedom and our sense of rights, but also, in some way, a trashing of religion. Like is this really the biggest thing we should be doing to accommodate religion right now — making it easier to harm people in its name?”
Buttigieg’s statement touches upon the fact that freedom of religion is sometimes cited as justification for discriminating against those who are “other,” those who are most vulnerable and those who desperately require the First Amendment’s protections in order to assert their rights. It can be employed to spread hate instead of the very tolerance it seeks to ensure.
We are also all too familiar with the apparent Mike Pence versus Buttigieg showdown regarding religious freedom. Buttigieg previously implored “the Mike Pences of the world” to realize that their “quarrels” over his LGBTQ identity are “with my creator.”
In response, the vice president asserted, “Pete’s quarrel is with the First Amendment. All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs,” to which Buttigieg clarified, “The vice president is entitled to his religious beliefs…My problem is when those religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm other people.”
And so a paradox persists — Buttigieg asserts his First Amendment right to freedom of religion as a practicing Christian in the LGBTQ community, yet some disapprovers believe that accepting that same gay Christian’s plea for tolerance violates their religious freedoms.
Side note — the spark that ignited this Buttigieg rabbit hole was a recent Newseum visit by Buttigieg’s husband Chasten, who explored our latest exhibit, “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement.” Since a Buttigieg took the time to check out our LGBTQ-focused exhibit, it was only fitting that we explore the political positions of the first LGBTQ candidate.