Pence Wants Religious Freedom Bill Fixed by End of the Week
Indiana Right to Life was running an online drive to support Gov. Mike Pence (R) and the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while Pence called on the Indiana General Assembly members to reboot the RFRA by adding amendments to make it clear the bill was not intended to legalize LGBT discrimination.
Pence said he wants the clarified RFRA on his desk by the end of the week, April 3.
"After much reflection and in consultation with leadership of the General Assembly, I have come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," the governor said. "...Let me say I believe this is a clarification, but it's also a fix."
"This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples... I do believe that moving legislation this week that would make it clear this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone would be appropriate."
Pence told reporters today it had been a “tough week” since he signed the legislation, which sparked a nationwide inferno of criticism.
“But I was proud to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Pence said, stressing the legislation had everything to do with religious freedom and nothing to do with discrimination.
He blamed “sloppy, reckless, irresponsible, ridiculous national reporting” for a “smear against the bill” that resulted in “misunderstanding, mischaracterization, and confusion.”
The smear, Pence said, was that "somehow, through our legislative process, we enacted legislation that created a license to discriminate."
Politicians, celebrities and pundits in the center and on the left spent the week after Pence signed the legislation vilifying the RFRA and the governor.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy told the MSNBC Morning Joe panel today it “was time to call a bigot a bigot,” as the Democrat explained why he had issued an order banning state-funded travel from his state to Indiana.
“We cannot sit idly by and do nothing while laws are enacted that will turn back the clock. We need to keep moving forward and stand up against forces that seek to roll back progress. I’m sending a clear message with this executive order: Discrimination can’t and won’t be tolerated by the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said in a press release issued the day before his Morning Joe appearance.
The band Wilco canceled its May 7 show in Indianapolis because of the Indiana RFRA law. Former basketball player Charles Barkley called on the NCAA to move its Final Four and championship college basketball tournament out of Indy, author Stephen King compared the law to a frosted dog turd that is still a dog turd, and Miley Cyrus tweeted to her followers that Gov. Pence was an “asshole.”
However, Indiana Right to Life urged Gov. Pence to “stay the course” in a Facebook and online petition drive that began March 25.
Mike Fichter, the president of Indiana Right to Life, believes the mainstream media presented a biased, prejudiced and untruthful presentation of the facts about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Fichter does not see the RFRA as state-sanctioned permission to discriminate against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered crowd.
Instead, Fichter wrote in a blog post March 30, the RFRA offers protection to his pro-life forces who might be forced by state or local laws to support abortion.
Fichter said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would shield pro-life business owners and interests on the state and local level just as the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. supported the argument that businesses could refuse to pay for their employees’ abortion-inducing drugs under Obamacare.
“Prior to the enactment of Indiana’s RFRA, pro-life persons, businesses and ministries in Indiana did not enjoy the same religious freedom protection against state or local laws that might force them into supporting abortion in violation of faith principles,” he wrote.
By Richter’s count, 30 other states have either enacted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act law or have a RFRA judicial review standard. He said Indiana case law differs from each of those states, leading legal scholars to label the current Indiana judicial review standard as “uncertain.”
“Our new Indiana RFRA law helps remove that uncertainty. The adoption of the RFRA standard will assure that our state courts follow the same reasoning and case law as the federal courts and 30 other states when they weigh these issues,” Richter wrote.
“Pro-life Hoosiers deserve the same protections against overbearing state and local laws as do their counterparts in the majority of the states,” he added.
Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed — and reaffirmed in today’s press conference — that Indiana’s RFRA law is not a “license to discriminate,” but it “mirrors federal law” signed by President Clinton in 1993.
“Even a claim involving private individuals under RFRA must show that one’s religious beliefs were 'substantially burdened' and not in service to a broader government interest—which preventing discrimination certainly is. The government has the explicit power under the law to step in and defend such interests.”
“I abhor discrimination,” he added. “I believe in the Golden Rule that you should 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.”