As Indiana lawmakers moved to clarify the state’s new religious-objections law, Republican presidential candidates are lining up to support it.
The law is just days-old and earning national attention, with opponents worried that the law could allow for discrimination against gays and lesbians. The law allows people or companies to challenge government rules that “substantially burden” religious practices. The example often used by conservative groups is that the law would prevent the government from forcing wedding-related businesses to provide services for same-sex weddings, if they found the activity objectionable on religious grounds.
Pressure mounted over the weekend, with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defending the law on ABC’s Sunday talk show and in a opinion article in The Wall Street Journal. On the other side, high-profile companies and people, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and NCAA president Mark Emmert, voiced concern. State lawmakers announced Monday that they are working on editing the language of the measure, so that it doesn’t allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. (Update: Tuesday morning. Gov. Pence said he hoped to get a new bill on his desk by the end of the week to clarify that the law doesn’t allow discrimination.)
At the same time, Republicans expected to run for president in 2016, including Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) declared their support for the law.
Republican presidential candidate Mr. Cruz issued a statement Monday, saying he was proud to stand with Mr. Pence in defending religious liberty.
“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.”
Mr. Bush, who is expected to announce his bid for the White House this summer, defended the law on Monday night on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative radio show, saying the law is not discriminatory.
“… 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…. 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 to, 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.”
Likely presidential candidate Ben Carson told conservative news site Breitbart that Indiana’s law is “absolutely vital.”
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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal – Natalie Andrews