Governor Mike Pence Can’t Stop Lying about Indiana’s RFRA, even in the WSJ

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Indiana’a Governor Mike Pence just wrote an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal, again criticizing those who call Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) a “license to discriminate,” saying that the law has been “grossly misconstrued.”

He goes so far as to express how he is against discrimination.

“I abhor discrimination. 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. As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it. Indiana’s new law contains no reference to sexual orientation. It simply mirrors federal law that President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.”

First, if he abhorred discrimination he would not have signed this law into effect. And when asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News This Week if he would add non-discrimination or, better yet, protection for LGBT citizens into the law, Governor Pence said said that adding protections for LGBT people was not on his “agenda” and moments later added, “We’re not going to change the law.” For someone who says he “abhors discrimination,” he sure isn’t acting to prevent it.

Second, his claim that Indiana’s law mirrors the federal RFRA that Clinton signed over twenty years ago is a bald-faced lie.

ThinkProgress published an excellent piece explaining this. In it, they state, “There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a ‘person’ (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose ‘exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened’ can use the law as ‘a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.’ Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens. This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is ‘more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors’ and opens up ‘the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…'”

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Governor Pence goes on in his OpeEd to state, “Some express concern that Indiana’s RFRA law would lead to discrimination, but RFRA only provides a mechanism to address claims, not a license for private parties to deny services.” But that is exactly with Indiana’s RFRA does. The wording of the law allows a business to deny service to anyone who based on a “substantial burden” to the business owner’s religious beliefs and use that as a defense when sued. Cut and dry. What is a “substantial burden?”

CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said “It would foil any lawsuit against a supplier who acted on religious grounds, but the law can get squirrely,” adding that it’s likely that a refusal to serve a gay person wouldn’t stand under the law, but a refusal to provide a service for a gay wedding would.

There is your discrimination.

Governor Pence ends his OpEd with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority.” But he doesn’t quote Jefferson who, in a letter to John Adam dated January 11, 1817, said, “Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.” Religion is a private, personal relationship between a person and the entity that they believe in. And I’m all for anyone having faith in whatever helps them survive in this world. But I am not in support of anyone using his or her faith to discriminate against another person.

I’ll end on this note. I wrote this on my Facebook page a few days ago after spotting several extremely right-wing, religious conservatives claiming that “participation” in a “gay wedding” was a “substantial burden” against their religious beliefs. I wrote, and I hope Governor Pence takes notice:

The extreme, religious right often use the argument that a baker baking a cake for a “gay” wedding (which, let’s be clear, there’s really no such thing… a wedding is a wedding regardless of the sex or gender of the two adults involved) is a burden against their religious beliefs because they shouldn’t be forced to “participate” in a ceremony those goes against their deeply held convictions. Participate? A baker isn’t “participating” in my wedding. Is he/she buying us a gift? No. Are they invited to the service? No. The baker is a service provider. Just like the chair rental service or the hair stylist. They are no more “participating” in my wedding than the power company is for providing electricity to turn on the lights. Businesses should be bound by law, if not common decency, to provide his/her service to anyone willing to pay. Claiming that baking a cake is a burden on your religious beliefs is a lie behind which bigots/cowards hide. Just come out and admit you are a bigot. At least the world will know who to shame in the history books.

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