Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Indiana Governor Mike Pence says he has no intention of changing a law that protects the religious freedom of its citizens in spite of an intensive, media-fueled backlash from gay activists.
FoxNews.com is reporting that the Indiana governor is under fire for signing into law a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which will allow Indiana business owners to cite religious freedom as a legal defense if they refuse services on the basis of their beliefs.
Gay activists, acting in collusion with the mainstream media, have distorted the content of the law into being “anti LGBT” because it would allow businesses such as florist shops, bakeries and photography studios to refuse services for same-sex weddings.
Even though 19 other states have similar laws, and President Bill Clinton signed a federal version into law in 1993, activists in Indiana are insisting that the bill will allow legal discrimination against gays.
Pence disagrees and made the rounds on this weekend’s talk shows explaining that the law protects the rights of everyone – gays as well as Christians.
While being interviewed by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, the governor said he was “just determined to clarify this: This is about protecting the religious liberty of people of faith and families of faith.”
Stephanopoulos repeatedly tried to make the governor say it would protect Christian bakers and florists from punishment if they refuse to service same-sex marriages, and Pence repeatedly refused to be pinned to the host’s liberal talking points.
"People are trying to make it about one particular issue, and now you're doing that as well," Pence said.
"Here, Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith for people in our state and this avalanche of intolerance has been poured upon the people of our state," he said.
The purpose of the law is to expand individual rights for those who feel government has impinged on their personal rights, Pence said.
“This is not about discrimination. This is about empowering people to confront government overreach.”
In spite of the opposition being drummed up by activists across the state in the form of businesses who are threatening to cause economic damage to Indiana’s economy, Pence said lawmakers in his state have no intention of changing the legislation. The most they will do is clarify the law, he said, stating that he has no intention of making gays and lesbians into a protected legal class in Indiana.
In defense of the law, Catholic League president Bill Donohue took on one of the governor’s attackers – the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) which is based in Indianapolis and is threatening to redirect some of their future events to other states.
Donohue wrote a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert saying that his assertion that the law will cause “negative effects” against gays and lesbians is unfounded and “smacks of hostility to religion.”
“Have you actually read RFRA? Or are you relying solely on politically correct, and factually bogus, interpretations?” Donohue demands.
He points out that the law simply ensures that the government cannot “substantially burden” a person’s exercise of religious liberty unless there is a “compelling government interest” and that it is the “least restrictive means” available.
“It doesn’t create a hostile environment for anyone,” Donohue concludes.
He ends the letter by advising the NCAA to reconsider their threat to pull future events from the state. But if they insist, they ought to raze all of the lavish buildings that comprise the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis – including their brand new 130,000 square foot office addition – and set up shop somewhere else.
“Surely you could set up shop in one of the minority of states that do not support RFRA,” he suggests. “Were you to stay put, someone might think you are a phony, among other things.”
The backlash against the state is obviously being fueled by misinformation provided by activists and their cohorts in the media because the American public has consistently favored protection for business owners by wide majorities.
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