AUSTIN, Texas — Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld spoke with The Christian Post about his views on religious freedom, abortion and gay marriage at the Texas Tribune Festival.
"I would probably be inoffensive," Weld, a pro-choice and pro-gay marriage libertarian, answered Thursday when asked about his pitch to conservative Christians. "... I don't like to make life difficult for other people."
Weld served two terms as governor of Massachusetts and was assistant U.S. attorney general for the criminal division under President Ronald Reagan. Though a Republican most his life, in 2016 he was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee.
When asked if he would, as president, defend the religious freedom of those who disagree with him on abortion and same-sex marriage, Weld answered, "I've never rubbed anybody's nose in my position on abortion. In fact, I was elected by 50% pro-life voters, 50% pro-choice. I don't tell anybody else what their views should be. People are more than free to have all their own views and to proselytize."
Weld was a speaker at the Texas Tribune Festival, or "Trib Fest," an annual multiday event hosted by the Texas Tribune that brings together political thinkers and practitioners to discuss challenging topics.
A recent example of the infringement of religious freedom for conservative Christians occurred in California when a state appeals court ruled that a Catholic hospital can be sued for refusing to sterilize a transgender person as part of what some call "gender reassignment" surgery.
When asked about whether he supports that decision, Weld answered, "No, no, I wouldn't go there. That's the [free] exercise clause of the First Amendment."
Before his CP interview, Weld was interviewed in front of a live audience by political commentator Matt Lewis for his "Matt Lewis and the News" podcast.
"I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom. That's my politics," Weld told Lewis.
He also berated pro-lifers who believe the lives of those conceived in rape have equal dignity and worth and should be protected. "They want to tell women that rapists have more rights than women do," he said.
When Lewis asked if he would place any limits on abortion, Weld responded, "The rule at common law was quickening. Abortion was fine until quickening, which I associate with five months, and after that, no. ... I don't go near third-term stuff."
During the 1700s to 1800s, before scientists developed better pregnancy tests and knew more about fetal development, abortion was only considered illegal after the quickening, when the mother first feels the baby move, because at the time it was the only sure way to know that a woman was pregnant. Abortion couldn't be illegal if courts couldn't determine whether there was a pregnancy.
Weld also tied his support for gay rights to his opposition to racism.
"Best speech I ever gave in my life, political speech, was at the African Meeting House, Saturday before the Tuesday election, and I told everybody, my ancestor, Theodore Dwight Weld, was the number two to William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist who ran the underground railroad ... during the Civil War. When it comes to prejudice against gays and lesbians, I will be an abolitionist. When it comes to this, that and the other, minority groups, I will be an abolitionist, and I really meant it and I mean it to this day," he told Lewis.
In his CP interview, Weld defended the rights of churches.
"I think the marginalization of the Catholic Church where government is concerned has gone too far," he said. "The Catholic Church was my favorite social service agency. I privatized a good number of social service functions, contracted out to the Catholic Church. If you want someone to run a home for unwed mothers, for example, I'd much rather have the nuns than some government bureaucrat."
When pressed about the ongoing conflict between religious freedom and gay rights, and when asked about Catholic adoption agencies being forced out of the adoption business because they refuse to place with same-sex couples, Weld also defended churches.
"I remember when I was in office, all my liberal friends said I had to require that Catholic homes for unwed mothers put a basket of condoms on the windowsill. I must say, I refused," he answered with a chuckle.
Weld's campaign website is Weld2020.org.