CNN's Cuomo Rips Religious Freedom Activist For Trying to 'Enforce Intolerance'

CNN's Chris Cuomo made no secret of his support of left-wing LGBT activists on Monday's New Day, as he spotlighted the controversy over a proposed bill in Arizona that would protect the religious liberties of business owners. Cuomo berated a guest from the conservative lawyer for her defense of the bill: "You don't need even need this law unless what you want to do is enforce intolerance...That's what it seems like you are doing to me, and it seems pretty obvious."

The anchor, who recently extolled rapper Macklemore's pro-LGBT agenda "Same Love" track, and raved about NFL hopeful Michael Sam's coming out, blasted guest Kellie Fiedorek and the organization she works for, the Alliance Defending Freedom, for their social conservative agenda – or as he spun it, "trying to protect Christians who feel this kind of exclusionary belief": [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

CHRIS CUOMO: Your organization has a history of trying to hedge the ability to deal with gay marriage and gay rights in the country. All somebody has to do is – you know, Google your organization. So, let's just be open and honest about it....LGBT is not protected, so you are now designing a law that exploits that. Why don't you own that proposition and say, yes, that's what my organization is about. We're trying to protect Christians who feel this kind of exclusionary belief, and that's what this law is about.

Cuomo's hostility started to emerge in his second question to Fiedorek, where he advanced the social left's talking points against the Arizona bill: "Fundamentally...the mechanism is to allow an individual business owner to refuse to do business with somebody on the basis of it offending their religious beliefs...So, for example, if I come to you and I – say you sell flowers. I want you to sell flowers for me for my marriage to another man. You can say no, correct?"

Fiedorek replied, in part, that the "government should not force us to ever use our business – use our talents – to go against what we fundamentally believe." She continued with two hypothetical situations: "For example, we would not force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning ceremony. We wouldn't ask a black photographer and force them to go take a picture of KKK event." The CNN anchor interrupted his guest mid-answer and objected to her examples: "Counselor, counselor, tell me that you're not analogizing burning a Koran or the KKK with gay marriage. Do you really see those things as the same thing?"

Cuomo spent the rest of the segment interrupting the attorney as she tried to defend her social conservative position:

KELLIE FIEDOREK, ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM: ...No one's going to be denied or kicked out of a restaurant or denied a cup of coffee or a piece of pizza. What this simply ensures is that everyone in the State of Arizona – these are common, fundamental freedoms that are – that are inherent in our country's history. And this bill simply protects those freedoms, and allows people to live according to their faith without the government coming in and saying what you can and cannot believe or what you-

CUOMO: It allows people to not do business with gays – is what it allows. Your organization has a history of trying to hedge the ability to deal with gay marriage and gay rights in the country. All somebody has to do is – you know, Google your organization. So, let's just be open and honest about it. Why is dealing with gays or gay marriage tantamount to a substantial burden of someone's religion? Whose religion does that substantially burden?

FIEDOREK: Chris, you're misunderstanding the point entirely. For example, in our wedding photography case – it's a great example – it's out of New Mexico. And Elaine is a wonderful, young Christian photographer, and she started her photography company. And she is more than willing to take pictures of homosexuals. She will take passport pictures, portrait pictures – anything. What she will not do is use her creative art – her ability as a photographer – to go in and promote and endorse a wedding – an event that she doesn't agree with. There is a big difference between being forced to participate in an event-

CUOMO: But how is that a substantial burden? How is that a substantial burden? Let's say you're a Christian – right? – which I'm sure most of people you're designing this law for would be. How is it a substantial burden to my Christianity to take photos of a gay marriage? If I'm against it, then I don't marry another man – right? Why is it a substantial burden?

FIEDOREK: It violates your religious freedom if the government comes in and forces you to go against – to act in contradiction to what you believe. It doesn't just apply to Christians. Like I said, a Jewish baker – you couldn't ask a Jewish baker to go provide pork sandwiches for a wedding reception. That would go against his religious beliefs. And in America – the couple in New Mexico – there are so many people willing to provide photography – to use their creative expression for that event. So, why can't we just let everyone live and be free and respect and advocate for tolerance of all viewpoints, regardless of whether or not the government happens to agree with that viewpoint in any particular moment?

CUOMO: But aren't you arguing against tolerance? Because tolerance would be – that as a business owner, I don't even know why you need the Arizona law at all, because if you don't want to do business with somebody, you can, for whatever reason – LGBT, the gay community in general – is not a protected class under the federal law. So, it's not like race or religion where you can't discriminate. So, you don't need even need this law unless what you want to do is enforce intolerance, counselor. That's what it seems like you are doing to me, and it seems pretty obvious.

FIEDOREK: No, not at all – and for the record, I don't think most people have actually even read this bill....I want to be really, really clear on this – it would no way allow anyone to deny someone services. It would not allow them to kick them out of a restaurant or deny them something. It simply won't force artists, regardless of what you are or anyone – to create or promote a message to force them to be in a parade or to be in an event or endorse that with their business – it wouldn't allow them to do that because of the fundamental respect for religious freedom that we should advancing-

COUMO: If I come to your restaurant – if I come to your restaurant and ask you to cater my gay marriage, can you say no under the new law?...


FIEDOREK: There's a lot of examples, and it would depend on what that person's religious belief were. Like I said, the Jewish baker, we could not say he would have to be compelled to provide pork sandwiches for an event. I mean, it comes back down to religious beliefs-

CUOMO: That's because religion is a protected class, and LGBT is not a protected class. That's why you can't say to the Jewish baker that he doesn't provide pork sandwiches in your example there. But LGBT is not protected, so you are now designing a law that exploits that. Why don't you own that proposition and say, yes, that's what my organization is about. We're trying to protect Christians who feel this kind of exclusionary belief, and that's what this law is about.

FIEDOREK: No, that's absolutely not what this law is about. This law is about protecting religious freedom and protecting the dignity of every single person, and allowing – and no one – I can't understand why you would endorse the government – and say, yes, the government can come into my life and it compel me to create art or create something that violates what I sincerely believe. We can't – this is not a country where that's something that we've ever stood up for. If you're against discrimination, if you're against the government saying what you can and can't do, and what you should or should not be penalized for – in terms of going against your religious beliefs –  you should be for this bill.

CUOMO: I understand your point. However, I don't understand the example of how the government is compelling anyone to do this under the law as it is right now. It's just that you're extending a right where it didn't exist before to have intolerance. But the government isn't telling anyone to do business with anybody. And the LGBT community is not a protected class.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center