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Religious Tolerance logo

State religious freedom to discriminate laws

Part 5: 2015-MAR: Indiana:
Governor Pence may be having second thoughts.
Union relocates conference out-of-state.
Potential Republican candidates for the
Presidency in 2016 defend RFRAs.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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2015-MAR-28: Governor Pence may be having second thoughts:

While the "freedom to discriminate" bill was being discussed in the Legislature, Democrats asked that the bill be augmented with text saying that the law does not promote discrimination against the LGBT community. Their suggestion went nowhere.

Cara Anthony, writing for the Indianapolis Star, said:

"Pence signed the bill, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on Thursday, unleashing a storm of criticism from inside and outside of the state from people who think the bill could lead to discrimination from business owners who don't want to serve gay or same-sex customers.

On Saturday, Pence said he will support the introduction of legislation to 'clarify' that the law does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Although he did not provide details on what the new bill will say, the governor said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.

Business leaders have criticized the bill, saying that it gives the state a bad image and will make it harder to recruit top talent to Indiana." 1

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Webmaster's note:

This new law has lit a firestorm of opposition from a wide swath of Hoosiers. We realize that this section of our web site does not give adequate attention to statements by faith groups and others who are in support of the new law.

During the next few days, in order to improve the balance of opinions, we will make an effort to find people and organizations, in addition to the National Organization for Marriage that we have already quoted, who favor the law .

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2015-MAR-30: Union relocates its conference out of Indiana:

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), announced that it is relocating its 2015 women's conference that was scheduled for Indianapolis, IN. The union's president, Lee Saunders, issued a statement saying:

"This un-American law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights. It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated.

Throughout our proud history, our union has stood up whenever injustice has occurred -– be it for striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968, or for the victims of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Governor Pence’s law, motivated by ultra-right wing zealots, is an affront to the vast majority of those in our nation who believe that every American deserves equal treatment under the law, no matter whom they love or where they worship.

AFSCME will relocate our Women’s Conference to a state to be determined, as a sign of our disgust and disappointment with Governor Pence’s discriminatory law. We stand with the ever-growing number of businesses and associations who are taking similar action this week and demanding fairness for all in the state of Indiana." 2

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2015-MAR-30: Potential Republican contenders for the presidency in 2016 defend the Indiana "freedom to discriminate" bill:

Former Governor Jeb Bush (Florida), Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), Senator Marco Rubio (Florida), and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (Wisconsin) all described the Indiana RFRA as protecting the rights of any of the public who want to freely exercise their religious beliefs:

  • Ex-governor Jeb Bush said:

    "I think if [critics] got briefed on the law that they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all. There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there’s been some kind of discrimination. We’re going to need this. This is really an important value for our country too, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles, but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs."

  • Senator Ted Cruz, who is the only person to have formally announced his candidacy for the presidency, said:

    "I want to commend Governor Mike Pence for his support of religious freedom, especially in the face of fierce opposition. There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience. Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I'm proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same."

  • Senator Marco Rubio said:

    "No one here is saying it should be legal to deny someone service at a restaurant or at a hotel because of their sexual orientation, I think that’s a consensus view in America. The flip side of it is — should a photographer be punished for refusing to do a wedding that their faith teaches them is not one that is valid in the eyes of God?

    I think people have the right to live out their religious faith in their own lives. They can't impose it on you in your life. But they have a right to live it out in their own lives. And when you're asking someone who provides professional services to do something, or be punished by law, that violates their faith, you're violating that religious liberty that they have."

  • Governor Scott Walker's position was described by his press secretary. AshLee Strong said:

    "As a matter of principle, Gov. Walker believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience," 3

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All four potential candidates described the Indiana RFRA as protecting the freedom of people to express their religious beliefs. None offered support for persons who will be discriminated against as a result of the bill.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Cara Anthony, "Thousands protest 'religious freedom' law in Indiana," USA Today, 2015-MAR-28, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
  2. Laura Clawson, "Union cancels Indiana conference over 'un-American' discrimination law," Daily KOS, 2015-MAR-30, at: http://www.dailykos.com/
  3. Jonathan Easley, "GOP hopefuls back Indiana religious freedom law," The Hill, 2015-MAR-30, at: http://thehill.com/

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2015-MAR-28
Latest update: 2015-APR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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