Johnson walks back burka ban comments, now says he would veto such a ban

From Gary Johnson via Ron Nielson:

Reason is going to publish a clarification tonight. Here are some comments that we gave to them.

In an interview with Reason Wednesday, I was asked about a ban on women wearing burqas. The question came in a discussion of Sharia law and its incompatibility with the fundamental tenets of liberty. I answered the question in the context of the fact that, under Sharia law, women have no choice but to wear the burqa, and live under a system of law that not only allows, but condones, abuse of women. In that context, I stated that banning the full-face burqa, as was done in France, would be a reasonable step toward preventing signs of abuse from being hidden. My response was not about telling women what they can and cannot wear, but about protecting them from harm under a brutal ideology under which women basically have no rights.

However, having had time to consider, my response was wrong. As with many well-intentioned ideas, a government-imposed ban on full-face coverings would have unintended consequences and likely result in government overreach. As Governor, I vetoed many such well-intended laws, and on reflection, would in fact veto a government ban on full face burqas. While the law must provide protection for women from abuse, it is clear that banning face veils wouldn’t work, and would be impossible to enforce without infringing on basic rights.

Sharia law is incompatible with the freedoms upon which America is founded, and it must not be overlooked that, under Sharia ideology, women have no rights, and are certainly not free to dress as they wish. Imposing such a system on women under some guise of freedom of religion or expression is not acceptable under any notion of liberty. On that point I am firm. But a government ban on an item of clothing might well have the consequence of restricting, not protecting, freedom.

18 thoughts on “Johnson walks back burka ban comments, now says he would veto such a ban

  1. Caryn Ann Harlos

    ==However, having had time to consider, my response was wrong.==

    I respect the ability to say that.

  2. Joe Wendt

    So, Johnson is firmly against Sharia Law. So, will he ban Halal? Will he ban Halakha for those who are Jewish? All Johnson has said is that he wouldn’t ban a burqa. He makes no guarantees allowing individuals to live voluntarily according to their religious traditions (Sharia, Halakha, whatever). He leaves to door open by essentially saying these lifestyle choices are incompatible with the freedoms upon which America is founded. The Constitution and the First Amendment would disagree with Johnson on this.

  3. Matt Cholko

    I’m with CAH. He didn’t say that he misspoke, as politician often (always) do in situations like this. He admitted that he was wrong, and that’s the best anyone can do.

  4. Richard Winger

    People who never change their minds about anything don’t have my respect. As we live life, we learn new things, deepen our understanding of human beings, and often re-evaluate old positions, if our brains are still flexible.

  5. Chuck Moulton

    I’m fine with a person changing positions upon more thought — in fact, I respect willingness to admit one is wrong. That’s not the problem here.

    The problem is:

    1) His instincts are so far from libertarian that he didn’t realize his position was bad until massive negative feedback (and still doesn’t realize his Fair Tax position is bad even AFTER massive negative feedback over a 4 year period).

    2) The characterization of this as an unexpected gotcha question by Reason is ridiculous… clearly an outright lie because (as Tom Knapp documents) he said the same thing to at least 2 other reporters.

  6. steve m

    my question would be much more basic….

    Sharia law in the western countries is a buzz word. We use it without knowing what it is and we assume it is bad. I have zero real knowledge about it and as such won’t say bad or good until I put some effort into what it means and implies with respect to western culture and libertarian thought.

    If there is a scholar who can point me to relevant literature please do.

  7. Robert Capozzi

    I’d say it wasn’t just an isolated mistake, but that GJ has gone down a rabbit hole about “Sharia Law,” working himself into a bit of a frenzy. Paranoia often works this way, where little things set the mind reeling, blunting otherwise good judgment.

    History is replete with this sort of thing, where fears get the better of not only one person, but entire populations go mad with fear.

    This needs to be monitored.

  8. langa

    I agree with Knapp and Chuck.

    This is one of those things that a real libertarian shouldn’t even have to think about. The fact that he obviously had spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, came to the wrong conclusion, and then felt the need to announce that wrong conclusion to three different media outlets on the same day, demonstrates that he lacks not only an understanding of libertarian philosophy, but he lacks common sense, as well.

  9. Caryn Ann Harlos

    I will repeat what I said on Facebook.

    ==Caryn Ann Harlos Here is the problem. In his explanation in his orignal comment he said that political speech could be banned. That is a huge problem that isn’t so easily retracted.===

    ==Caryn Ann Harlos he has also supported forcing people to bake cakes… big freedom issues==

    ===Caryn Ann Harlos Am I glad he retracted and said he was wrong? YES. It takes more fortitude than most politicians have to do that. Am I concerned this belies some foundational anti-freedom issues? YES.===

  10. George Whitfield

    I think that after reflection he realized his mistake and said so quickly. It is a hard lesson but one that is best learned early in a campaign and not late in one. I like Steve Kerbel, too. They could be a good team. Should be an interesting convention.

  11. steve m

    ah think (always dangerous) that if a religion calls for stripping me of my rights and even maybe my life for my beliefs then it is fair grounds for a libertarian to question the religion.

    This goes for all religions and not just Islam. And Islam isn’t the only religion that does this.

  12. georgephillies

    No, Trent, he did not walk back his statements. He backed off one of them. He still claims that political speech can be banned if he disagrees with it.

  13. Darcy G Richardson

    George is right. Then again, Gary Johnson spent most of his life in one of the country’s two authoritarian parties.

  14. georgephillies

    It would be nice if we only had two authoritarian parties in this country.

    Johnson retracted on Burqas as political speech that we should ban, a claim that was simply stupid.

    Johnson continues to support his position that we can and should ban non-violent political speech. He rejected the First Amendment and still does.

    Johnson continues to support has racist nonsense (he’s pointing at things that are Arabic, not Islamic) about the threat of Sharia. He rejects our party’s bigotry plank, and still does.

    Perhaps one should wonder if the bit about the burqas was a red herring, to distract our attention from is stands on larger issues.

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