Rubio Is Confused About Christianity, Marriage Equality, and the Constitution

Marco Rubio went on television with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody and suggested that Christianity is on the verge of being labeled “hate speech.”

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone.

Rubio’s rambling statement botched a simple understanding of constitutional law and free speech rights. Not to mention reality.

According to CBN’s transcript:

“If you think about it, we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” Rubio told CBN News. “Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”

“So what’s the next step after that?” he asked.

“After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger,” he warned.

Rubio appeared to be referring to the legal concept of “clear and present danger,” which the Supreme Court developed in the early 20th century, attempting to articulate the circumstances under which the government can proscribe political speech. Through the early 20th century the Court applied it in situations in which a person’s speech was deemed to be a threat to national security, sustaining a war effort, or to the stability of the government. But in the later part of the century, the Court abandoned it.

The Court last appeared to address this idea in 1969, in Brandenburg v. Ohio. In that case, it reversed the conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, under an Ohio statute that criminalized “crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform” for a speech in which he said, “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.” The Ohio law, the Court held, violated Brandenburg’s free speech rights.

Although the Court’s opinion does not use the term “clear and present danger” and explicitly reject it, in his concurrence, Justice William O. Douglas noted his skepticism that it could be squared with the First Amendment at all. “Though I doubt if the ‘clear and present danger’ test is congenial to the First Amendment in time of a declared war,” he wrote, “I am certain it is not reconcilable with the First Amendment in days of peace.” 

Returning to Rubio’s statement, he is vague about who is labeling Catholic teaching “hate speech.” Does he mean the government? Does he mean people on the internet? Under the First Amendment, the government cannot stop citizens from engaging in speech, even if a listener finds it hateful. If by “they” he means American citizens, the simple answer is “they” have a constitutionally protected right to criticize the Catholic church; the church also has a constitutionally protected right to its doctrine.

But if Rubio is suggesting that “they” are the government, I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the scenario he is suggesting. Is he suggesting the government will deem a church’s teaching “hate speech?” There’s no basis or precedent that would remotely suggest that the government could regulate religious speech (whether “mainstream Christian teaching” or other religious teaching) at all, much less deeming it “hate speech.” The Free Exercise Clause protects religious practice and religious speech. Under the Free Speech Clause, the government cannot proscribe “hate speech” or even define it. Under the Establishment Clause, the government cannot endorse (or renounce) a particular religion.

You can say gay people are intrinsically disordered. Or you can say they don’t have a constitutional right to get married. They can say you’re a homophobe. The government can’t stop any of you.

But Rubio blurs the issue by suggesting that a nebulous “they” will first “go[] after individuals,” after which there is a slippery slope to arguing that “the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech.” Although CBN transcribed his next words as “and there’s a real and present danger,” if you watch the video, he says, “and that’s a real and present danger.” Suggesting, therefore, not that he believes “they” will argue that Catholic teaching is a “real and present danger” (whatever that is) but that the nebulous “they” present a “real and present danger” to Christianity.

Rubio’s statement is simply a confused muddle of fear-mongering and constitutional misconception. Neither of which is very presidential.

38 Comments

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Rubio doesn’t have anything to worry about. Christian hate speech is protected by the constitution.

  • uner1972@einrot.com' Frank says:

    Anybody but Hilary.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    What if a mainstream religion’s standard doctrine was intrinsically bigoted/hate speech? Wait, that’s happened, and/or we have legislated to the effect. We already have “anti-Sharia” laws. Why not anti-Biblical laws? Does “religion” provide ipso facto immunity from unconstitutionality/wrongdoing or do we just pull the beam out of our eye maybe?

  • truktyre@hotmail.com' Craptacular says:

    I hear this sentiment from numerous religious people when I call them on their bigotry. Somehow, they seem to think if the bigotry stems from a divine source, it is no longer considered bigotry. Sorry, but it just means the god you believe in is a bigot…and since religion is a choice, you are choosing to be a bigot.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Sometimes we have to let red states get by with a certain amount of crazy stuff to keep the peace, or at least try to. It is a work in progress.

  • junesxing@yahoo.com' Jeffrey Samuels says:

    ah back to my favorite quote “if I discriminate or criticize you, it is religious freedom. If you return the favor, it is persecution.” – Betty Bowers

  • reido56@gmail.com' Gideon says:

    My assumption is that “they” refers back to “our society”, which he previously mentioned. And by “our society”, I assume he means American culture at large: the majority popular opinion. It ties back to the concept that True Christianity is defined by rigid stances on particular issues. In their minds, the more that popular opinion diverges from those stances, the more that True Christianity is under siege. Of course, organizations like SPLC have already classified organizations like Focus on the Family as hate groups for a long time; he’s expressing the worry that popular opinion will increasingly do the same.

    The odd thing is that, among young adults at least, he’s worrying about the onset of a shift that took place some years ago (cf. David Kinnaman’s unChristian). Their popular perception of Christianity, especially the dogmatic True Christianity kind, is negative right now.

  • gregp@unm.edu' Gregory Peterson says:

    Not to mention that even though anti-discrimination laws had legally forbidden discrimination against women for many decades now, denominations like the Catholics and the Southern Baptists still do just that and haven’t they haven’t been rounded up and sent to concentration camps just yet.

  • alencon13@hotmail.com' Alencon says:

    Many religious conservatives don’t understand that the 1st Amendment DOES NOT protect someone’s speech from criticism or retribution by other citizens.

    Many of them also seem to think they’re the only ones allowed to criticize others or call for economic sanctions against others.

    This attitude sort of underlines the basic issue. What religious conservatives really want is the privilege of defining what is moral and then enforcing that definition on society at large (abortion is murder, homosexuality is an abomination, etc.). For much of American history religion enjoyed that privilege by default. That’s no longer the case and they’re having a hard time accepting this new reality.

    As for worrying about Christian dogma being declared “hate speech,” in some cases that’s already happening in the court of public opinion. That’s WHY you’re being called homophobic folks.

  • alencon13@hotmail.com' Alencon says:

    The point is that the government is prohibited from making and enforcing that conclusion. You and I can come to that conclusion and religion can be condemned in the court of public opinion but not in the legal courts.

    I suspect that some of those “anti-Sharia” laws would be unconstitutional if they actually did anything which they don’t.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    That’s true enough so far.

  • jon.krueger215@gmail.com' Jon Krueger says:

    Fearmongering isn’t very Presidential, no. But it’s red meat for his base.

  • cloudstone@hotmail.com' Todd Sampson says:

    You are trying to insert facts and rationality into an irrational statement. Of course it doesn’t make sense.

  • onusprobandi16@hotmail.com' NewAndImprovedCM says:

    Rubio’s whole “argument” fails as a result of his inverted way of defining “mainstream.” The mainstream is self-defining by being whatever is most widely believed/practiced; Rubio wants to define it prescriptively as what should be most widely accepted. In terms of the real mainstream, survey after survey shows that the tide has definitely turned against ultraconservative teachings on issues such as LGBTQ rights. Rather than modify their dogmas, the conservatives are responding by turning up the emotional heat. But all that does is fire up the most intransigent followers. I think this approach matches Einstein’s definition of madness as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    They might like to enforce their definitions on society, but I think they would settle for just going back to the way it used to be where society accepted that Christians where morally superior to other people not in all cases, but in general.

  • carole645@rocketmail.com' seashell says:

    Hmmm. As a cum laude law school graduate, one would think that Rubio has no excuse for not understanding the 1st amendment and how it works. But then, Rubio confuses Cuba under Batista in 1956, which is when his parents left for the US, and Cuba in 1959 under Castro.

    Lastly, Rubio’s vagueness about Christianity is probably due to his preference for the Evangelical church in Miami that he attends, rather than the Catholic church that he says he attends. He gave up Mormonism quite some years ago.

  • tspringersl@gmail.com' Tony Springer says:

    I thought mainstream Christian teaching was love God and love your neighbor. I guess Jesus was wrong again. 🙁

  • Dennis.Lurvey@live.com' GeniusPhx says:

    When republicans say, ‘let’s take america back to what it was supposed to be’ they mean the christian theocracies 9 or 13 colonies had, some still existed till the 14th amendment made them unconstitutional. They mean allow christian prayers back in public schools, presidents saying xn prayers from the lectern, xn prayers before every govt meeting, crosses in the parks and statues of Jesus at the DMV. We can’t allow ppl like Rubio to get power.

  • rloesser@gmail.com' Rick L. says:

    If gay marriage will destroy Christianity, perhaps it is the weakness of Christian’s faith rather than those those relatively few marriages.

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    Since when has Rubio and Reality ever been acquainted with each other? Reality is indifferent to his existence, and doesn’t care one whit about anything Rubio believes, because delusions have no bearing on the Universe’s ways of going about things.

    If this clown-car resident is considered Presidential Timber, the republican forest contains nothing but a few poisonous weeds.

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    That’s why some states are pretending to enact something that “prohibits _foreign_ law” which they don’t seem to remember includes Mosaic law and all of that stuff they love from Leviticus and so forth. All FOREIGN as well. Including English Common Law, upon which our own system of laws grew forth.

    I have no problem with forbidding the practice of the abominations in Leviticus on such specious grounds, but even in Europe the use of Sharia codes is only allowed in non-governmental arbitration, nor in Courts of Law.

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    and let the looniest of their fruitcakes self destruct (hopefully without taking the country down with them).

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    I hear tell that when they try to run his show on sane radio stations, he gets little to no audience share at all. boo-hoo for the bully.

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    The entire extreme religious reich believes that “mainstream equals Us” delusion.

  • ananta_androscoggin@roadrunner.com' AnantaAndroscoggin says:

    doesn’t say very much good about his base, either.

  • alencon13@hotmail.com' Alencon says:

    I think we mean the same thing. When I say “enforce” I mean forcing everyone to accept their definition of morality and admit to being immoral if they don’t toe the line.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Rubio, et al, a strong example of what the Bible refers to as “rabblerousers,” were simply not tolerated well. They love to raise peoples’ blood pressure with hateful words, but they’re not worth much more than that. Intelligent people don’t listen to them, and they’d be the first members of society to kill Jesus all over again. And they wouldn’t wait for 33 years!

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    Yeah, pretty hard to imagine how that distinction could make sense. If homosexuality is illegal elsewhere, would that mean we can’t make it illegal here?

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I think we are in agreement but. Long ago Christianity was at the top of the heap and considered the most moral path in America.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    They also have wealthy backers, and the Christian voting block has been the one giving them the most votes for their money.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    That is an important part of the teaching, but the reality is the church will disappear if they don’t recruit and propagate to the next generation. That always has to be the priority.

  • chris@east20thst.net' cmbennett01 says:

    It is clear the religious right has adopted the post-modernist idea of narrative as reality. They call it a “biblical world view”, but it is essentially the same thing. A big part of that narrative is that Christians are a persecuted minority. They are clearly delusional. Rubio may or may not believe the narrative, but he is nothing if not an opportunist. His statements will likely have little effect on the majority of Americans and will ingratiate him with the religious fundamentalists. He has nothing to lose for making statements like these.

  • ybepubje@grandmamail.com' Marco says:

    I’m looking for the woman of my life, a woman who is ready to live with me. Nobody is perfect, so leave aside the stereotypes and focus our attention on what people really want from the life: Mainly my partner must knows what she really wants in the life (referring particularly in relationships). Secondarily, I’m attracted by physically not beautiful women (appreciated below average), if she is a bit large is better. Conservative woman is a must for me, counting I’m a very devoted Christian. I dislike barbies that do not consider true women.

    I describe myself like a simple man rich of values, honest and sincere. My principal characteristic is to be altruist with others, sometimes I take care of others better than me, but with my defects as all people have.

    Whatsapp: +447937463555

    Viber: +393409282577

    skype: testifi87

    email: testify2087@gmail.com

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Where do you live? Is is a country that was at one time a part of Syria or Iraq?

  • john.harvey@verizon.net' SgtCedar says:

    Anti-Christian (or anti-Biblical) laws would be no more constitutional than anti-Sharia laws are.

  • aikido7@aol.com' james warren says:

    Poor Marco. That old global interconnectedness just keeps on-a comin’ down the pike. We are all overwhelmed in today’s world and might just as well accept that fact.

  • shammett@me.com' Steve Hammett says:

    Some things never change. In the 1970s they were telling children in the UK not to report abuse as doing so would lead to the persecution of the minority Catholic Church. Being charitable it may be simply be paranoia. Being uncharitable it may simply describe people who call upon others to have thick skins when THEY are villified by self-proclaimed “Christians” (who seem not to heed JC’s call to love neighbour, not just that neighbour who looks and thinks like you do) but when those self-proclaimed “Christians” face even moderate criticism they scream “fire!” where none exists. The Christian Institute and Christian Concern make similar claims over here increasingly to the shame of fellow Christians, but seemingly to no avail. Interestingly when Muslims use the Koran to call for Infidels to be killed it IS deemed hate/pro-terrorism speech in the UK, but when Christians call for gays to be killed citing the Bible that is neither inciting hatred no pro-terrorism. Is it any wonder that the Christian West is accused of hypocrisy.
    In the 1950s London hotels here could refuse accomodation to Irish Catholics, black people, etc. It was legal for clergy of the State Church to perform mixed (inter-racial) marriages on Biblical-morality-biological grounds. That is all regarded as offensive, outdated nonsence today.

  • junesxing@yahoo.com' Jeffrey Samuels says:

    he does if he wins the nomination (not likely). Then he will be faced with the daunting task of simultaneously walking back the BS for the mainstream voter while reassuring the fundamentalists that he meant every word.

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