After Supreme Court decision, Sen. Josh Hawley says religious conservatives have a 'bad' deal

hawley portrait Sen. Josh Hawley. Official portrait.

Sen. Josh Hawley called Tuesday for religious conservatives to "stand up and speak out" for religious liberty in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.

The decision redefined discrimination in federal civil rights employment law to include gender identity and sexuality. 

In a June 16 floor speech, Hawley referred to the decision as "historic," and "seismic," adding that the decision marked the end of the "legal conservative project."

The senator said religious conservatives have long voted for certain candidates under the presumption that they would appoint judges who would protect religious liberty. The Missouri senator classified himself as one of these "religious conservatives."

"If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one," said Hawley.

This unspoken bargain, he claimed, is that religious conservatives "go along with the (Republican) party establishment," including supporting policies that, in his view, do not benefit lower- and middle-class workers, in exchange for "some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your Constitutional rights to freedom of worship to freedom of exercise."

Hawley was particularly critical of policies he said cut taxes on the rich and help out "multinational corporations," while doing nothing to prevent jobs from going overseas.

"We are supposed to stay quiet about all of that and more because there would be pro-Constitution religious liberty judges. Except for they aren't," he said. "These judges don't follow the Constitution.

"What (religious conservatives) sought together was protection for their right to worship, for their right to freely exercise their faith as the First Amendment guarantees, for the right to gather in their communities, for their right to pursue the way of life that their scriptures variously command and that the Constitution absolutely protects. That's what they have asked for, that's what they have sought all these years," said Hawley.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the fate of churches and other religious institutions in its decision on Monday, writing that these topics were "questions for future cases."

"No doubt they are," said Hawley, saying these are "huge questions." He added that he will "eagerly await" what the "super legislators across the street in the Supreme Court building" will have to say on this topic.

Hawley criticized his fellow legislators for failing to pass legislation on issues of critical importance.

"There's only one problem with this piece of legislation," Hawley said, referring to the Supreme Court's decision.

"It was issued by a court, not by a legislature. It was written by judges, not by the elected representatives of the people. And it did what this Congress has pointededly declined to do for years now, which is to change the text and the meaning and the application and the scope of a historic piece of legislation."

Hawley said that the other members of the legislature are "terrified" to put a vote on a potentially contentious issue on the record. He said that the legislature is now no longer accountable to the people who elected them, that in their refusal to pass legislation, "courts rush in."

Now, said Hawley, is the time for religious conservatives "to bring forward the best of our ideas on every policy affecting this nation" and stop remaining silent on issues such as economics, trade, race, class, and "every subject that matters for what our founders called the general welfare."

"The bargain which religious conservatives have been offered is not tenable," said the Senator. "So I would just say it's not time for religious conservatives to shut up. We've done that for too long. No, it's time for religious conservatives to stand up and to speak out."

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