FLASHBACK ➠ Dems Defend ’93 Religious Freedom Bill
Or “A bunch of crazy bigots speak out for religious liberty”
For Hot Air, contributor Mary Katharine Ham compiled several C-SPAN videos from the past showing Democrats vehemently defending the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Clinton. She asks readers to “check out more of the hate!”
As a congressman, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), one of the bill’s authors, can be seen standing before the House and declaring, “The American people today know that religious freedom is not a luxury but a basic right of a free people.”
In Rep. Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) address before the House, he championed his state’s Religious Toleration Act of 1648 — one of the first, he said, to explicitly state that “the practice of religion ought to be unfettered by government.” Of the ’93 version of the RFRA, Hoyer declared it “the most important bill affecting religious liberty in our lifetime.” Here is another Hoyer quote from his speech:
To restore freedom is always timely. To restore, in particular, the rights that Americans hold so sacred under the First Amendment, and in particular, the right to practice their religion as they see fit. After all, it was that right that was hallmarked at the founding of this country. It was that right, in many respects, that made us unique in the world.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) also spoke from the floor:
It was no accident that the Framers of our Bill of Rights chose to place the free exercise of religion first among our fundamental freedoms. This House should do no less… If there is a shared American value, it is the commitment to religious liberty.
The final video is a speech from Clinton himself, from the White House lawn, before he signed the bill into law. Listen to what he said about signing the law and America’s “first freedom” of religion:
What this law basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion… I would like to come down on the side of everybody to act on what they believe is the right thing to do… [Stephen Carter’s book “The Culture of Disbelief”] makes a compelling case that today, Americans of all political persuasions and all regions have created a climate in this country in which some people believe that they are embarrassed to say that they advocate a course of action simply because they believe it is the right thing to do — because they believe it is dictated by their faith, by what they discern to be, with their best efforts, the will of God… It is high time we had an open, and honest reaffirmation of the role of American citizens of faith… We are a people of faith. We have been so secure in that faith, that we have enshrined in our Constitution protections for people who profess no faith, and good for us for doing so. But let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions. Let us instead, respect one another’s faiths, fight to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice whatever convictions he or she has. But bring our values back to the table of American discourse to heal our troubled land.
Yet with Indiana passing a similar law in 2015, these same Democrats’ reactions are a far cry from what they were in 1993.
Schumer recently mocked Indiana’s RFRA saying it’s only similar to Clinton’s “if you’re using a Funhouse mirror.”
Hoyer recently tweeted:
Another tweet that sounded vastly different from her husband’s position was Hillary Clinton’s.
So what makes today so different than yesterday?
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