GOP Hopefuls Back Pence on Indiana Religious Freedom Law

  • Catalina Camia Religion News Service
  • Updated Apr 01, 2015
GOP Hopefuls Back Pence on Indiana Religious Freedom Law

As criticism continues over Indiana’s religious freedom law, GOP presidential hopefuls defended Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the controversial legislation.

“I think Gov. Pence has done the right thing,” Jeb Bush said Monday (March 30) during a radio interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.

“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,” the former Florida governor said. “We’re going to need this. This is really an important value for our country … where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.”

Bush suggested that the law’s opponents are misinformed when they say it discriminates against gay people. “Once the facts are established, people won’t see this as discriminatory at all,” said Bush, who has yet to formally declare his 2016 candidacy.

The Indiana law, which takes effect July 1, would prohibit laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs — unless the government can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden or do so in the least restrictive way.

In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Pence stood by the law but would not explicitly answer the question from moderator George Stephanopoulos: “Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?” The law has prompted intense backlash, including from Angie’s List and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trying to appeal to religious conservatives with his presidential campaign, commended Pence in a statement issued Monday evening. The Indiana governor has also been urged to run for president and has said he’ll decide this spring.

“Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State,” Cruz said. “Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across the 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.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy on April 13, acknowledged the heated debate sparked by the Indiana law during a Fox News interview Monday.

“Nobody is saying that 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,” Rubio said. “The flip side 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?”

In a statement reported by Breitbart News, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the uproar over the Indiana law shows “religious liberty is indeed under attack.” Noting that Bill Clinton signed a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act while president and that Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted her opposition to the Indiana law, Jindal said, “The great irony is that in the minds of today’s liberals the only bigotry to be tolerated is their own bigotry against religious beliefs.”

Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has been polling well among conservatives, said it is “absolutely vital” to protect religious freedom. A spokeswoman for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he supports religious freedom as a “matter of principle.”

Courtesy: Religion News Service

Publication date: April 1, 2015