Editor’s note: A different version of this article first appeared at National Catholic Register.
Bill Clinton was basking in glory at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. Few presidents so love the spotlight. The occasion for Clinton, however, was not himself, but the reelection of Barack Obama.
To that end, Clinton’s stumping for Obama presents some interesting contrasts, as the press has noted. Quite unnoticed, however, is a particularly compelling contrast relating to religious freedom—an area where Barack Obama has been a foe, most notably via his terribly intolerant Health and Human Services mandate, and where Bill Clinton has been woefully silent.
For Bill Clinton—and for his wife, Hillary Clinton—that silence is conspicuous. Indeed, it may surprise readers to learn this, but both Clintons have been vigorous defenders of religious freedom. First consider Bill Clinton:
As Clinton stated in his memoirs: “I always felt that protecting religious liberty and making the White House accessible to all religious faiths was an important part of my job.” As president, Clinton practiced what he preached. He championed (among others) the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed 97-3 by the Senate) and the 1997 Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace. As to the former, Clinton signed it “to protect a reasonable range of religious expression in public areas like schools and workplaces.”
Pointing to these actions and more, my colleague, Dr. Gary Smith, who has studied Bill Clinton’s faith, has rightly described the former president as a “strong advocate” of “religious freedom at home and abroad.”
That’s fair to say. It is likewise true for Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton long supported her husband’s 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, especially its promotion of religious freedom in public schools. In her book, “It Takes a Village,” Mrs. Clinton sounded like a conservative when emphasizing the importance of religion in schools. Quoting her husband, she noted that “nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones, or requires all religious expression to be left behind at the schoolhouse door.” She cited these words from her husband: “[R]eligion is too important in our history and our heritage for us to keep it out of our schools.”
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."