WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Florida senator and Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio said in a recent interview he believes expressions of Christian values on issues like traditional marriage and human sexuality could soon be labeled "hate speech."
"If you think about it, we are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech," Rubio told CBN News. "Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater."
"After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech and there's a real and present danger," he warned.
If the events surrounding the approval of gay marriage in Europe forecast future events in America, Rubio is more than likely correct. Multiple nations in Europe have enacted laws allowing for gay marriage. In many cases, they are followed – and sometimes preceded – by laws which criminalize speech when it offends homosexuals.
In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights upheld restrictions on inflammatory speech directed at homosexuals in Sweden. In 2003, a pastor was charged with violating that law in a sermon where he addressed biblical teachings on homosexuality.
Today, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, Latvia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom also have similar laws under which people can be jailed or fined for speaking against homosexuality.
Rubio has waded into the debate on balancing the free exercise of religion with equal protection laws before. In an interview with NPR, he defended a citizen's right to refuse participation in a gay wedding on religious grounds. He said, however, that it would be "immoral" to refuse housing, hotel accommodations, health care and other services to people because they are gay.
"Separate from that, there's a constitutional protection of religious liberty that allows people to live by the tenets of their faith both in their public and in private life. That doesn't mean that you're allowed to go in and disrupt a gay wedding. But by the same token, it doesn't mean that someone's allowed to come to you and force you to be a participant in a ceremony that violates the tenets of your faith."
In a speech in 2014, Rubio also told an audience at Catholic University that "tolerance is a two-way street."
Rubio said then that those who support traditional marriage should respect those who support same-sex marriage. He also said proponents of same-sex marriage should respect those who uphold traditional marriage. But, he said, that rarely happens because traditional views on marriage are seen as anti-gay.
"Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage. And if support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election," Rubio said. "This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy."