Marco Rubio has hired a new director of faith outreach who is one of social conservatives’ most vocal opponents of LGBT equality and a woman’s right to have an abortion. If LGBT-friendly billionaire Paul Singer’s donation to Rubio’s campaign was any indication the Republican presidential candidate was softening on LGBT issues, the hiring of Eric Teetsel confirms the very opposite.
For the past few years, Teetsel has occupied a largely symbolic position as the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration. Drafted and signed in 2009, the declaration was a foundational document for conservatives’ strategy of using “religious liberty” to impose on others’ rights. Prominent Catholic bishops and other clergy signed the oath, vowing to never recognize a same-sex marriage or in any way allow for an abortion to take place — even if upholding that vow requires refusing to obey a law.
It’s no surprise that the Manhattan Declaration provided Teetsel with a foundation to be a very visible conservative pundit, both as a speaker and a writer. He’s spoken at Southern Baptist Convention conferences, National Organization for Marriage rallies, and even in Rick Santorum’s “religious liberty” docudrama One Generation Away. At every turn, Teetsel conveys the message of the Declaration: Christians’ beliefs should supersede law.
One of the beliefs Teetsel believes is most under attack is the condemnation of homosexuality. In an August blog post describing the current era as an “evil age,” Teetsel bemoaned the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision as “further obscuring the truth about the immorality of homosexuality.” He believes the Bible provides a singular solution for those “struggling with same-sex attraction,” and that solution is a life of chastity. As he explained in July, homosexuality is a “burden whose weight has proven too much to bear for far too many of our beloved brothers and sisters. But the only way — the only way — to address these crucial questions effectively is with the truth of the Gospel.”
Teetsel has decried the idea of bakers and other wedding vendors being forced by nondiscrimination laws to serve same-sex couples because, “The belief that marriage is solely for one man and woman ought not to be included in that list alongside racism and miscegenation, for it is a belief rooted in love.” He likewise defended Indiana’s “religious liberty” law that would have allowed for anti-LGBT discrimination, calling it “reasonable” and suggesting that any fix to protect LGBT people would “put Hoosiers of every faith in a worse position than they were in before the original law was passed.”
Under Teetsel’s leadership, the Manhattan Declaration signed an amicus brief last year supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods in their Supreme Court case seeking to deny birth control to women. Describing such treatments as “abortifacient contraceptives,” the brief argued that to compel an individual to participate in what he believes to be an unjustified taking of life imposes a grievous burden on his exercise of his beliefs.”
When Hobby Lobby won, Teetsel wrote that the decision was “an encouraging early milestone as people of faith seek to preserve religious liberties incompatible with expanding sexual mores.”
Conservative Erick Erickson, known for his own virulent attacks on the LGBT community, praised Rubio’s tapping of Teetsel as “a really sharp hire,” noting that he is “plugged in to some of the most prominent evangelical leaders and pastors in the United States.”