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Gary Johnson Repeats Liberal 'Discrimination' Line on Religious Freedom

When asked about religious freedom, Libertarian presidential nominee and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson repeated the liberal talking points about the dangers of "discrimination." In doing so, he might have sacrificed his chance to earn the support of social conservatives who distrust Donald Trump.

"I just see religious freedom, as a category, of just being a black hole," Johnson told the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney in an interview at the Democratic National Convention. Rather than emphasizing a business owner's freedom to deny serving a public event which might violate his or her conscience, he took a distinctly un-libertarian position.

When asked if he thinks "it's the federal government's job to prevent—" Johnson didn't even allow Carney to finish. "Discrimination? Yes," he said. When asked, "In all cases?" he replied, "Yes. Yes, in all cases. Yes."

For a self-styled "libertarian" talking about religious freedom, this is truly a terrifying answer. After all, in his book Capitalism and Freedom, the libertarian economist Milton Friedman argued that discrimination costs money, and that the government need not outlaw it, as the market will compensate for it eventually, as people act in their own interests.

The current religious freedom debate largely comes down to a simple question, which has worked out in various cases (The bakery owned by Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon, for example):

"Does a business owner have the right to deny service to a public event he or she disagrees with on religious grounds?"

Specifically, Carney asked about the New Mexico case, where Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin refused to photograph a same-sex wedding. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that this refusal violated the state's public accommodations law, which bans discrimination by those offering services to the public. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed this decision to stand.

The libertarian position should be an emphatic yes to this question, for various reasons. The right of contract allows either party to refuse a transaction. There are countless others who would be happy to serve a same-sex wedding (in the Kleins' case, there was a bakery which made a cake free of charge for the lesbian couple in question).

Most fundamentally, however, there is a huge difference between denying to sell goods to a specific person (discrimination) and refusing to take an artistic role in a public event.

Next Page: Why Johnson's stance on religious freedom isn't even libertarian.