By Tony Perkins
The only March Madness sweeping through Indiana is the hysteria over the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). And in the clash between the facts and fiction, truth is the overwhelming underdog. After 22 years of living under the same legislation Governor Mike Pence (R) just signed, most people want to know what, exactly, has changed? When President Bill Clinton put his name on an almost identical piece of legislation, his party cheered.
Now, two decades later, this same concept of religious freedom is sparking a nationwide panic. Businesses are boycotting Indiana; governors are banning state-funded travel there, and the media is giving in to a perfect storm of distortion from national liberal groups — all because Indiana wants what the Founding Fathers did: to let every American live and work according to their faith.
The reality is, if there weren’t a hostility toward faith, there wouldn’t be a need for RFRAs. As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other’s differences. But, under the policies and influence of the Obama administration, religious intolerance, especially toward Christians, has grown significantly. The various states that have passed RFRAs are simply extending the same courtesy of tolerance to men and women of faith that the Left now enjoys.
As even the Wall Street Journal points out in its defense of Indiana’s bill, “The paradox is that even as America has become more tolerant of gays, many activists and liberals have become ever-more intolerant of anyone who might hold more traditional cultural or religious views.” The Left is no longer satisfied with coexistence. They want to demand acceptance from others — and use the heavy hand of government to get it. They don’t just want to have their cake and eat it too — they want to force Christians to make their cake before they do. What RFRA is intended to do is to protect people from government discrimination.
Under this bill, everyone — regardless of their beliefs — would have the ability to defend their faith in court — whether it’s a wedding vendor whose beliefs will not allow them to affirm same-sex “marriage,” or a business like Hobby Lobby whose faith prohibits them from covering abortions.
The Left, meanwhile, is reaching for their pitchforks, when they should be reaching for their reading glasses. Nowhere in these three pages of Indiana legislation do Hoosiers have a free pass to deny people goods or services. In 22 years, no business has ever successfully used a law like this to do so. That’s all hype. “The great irony,” Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.) argued, “is that in the minds of today’s liberals, the only bigotry to be tolerated is their own bigotry against religious beliefs.”
As almost every GOP hopeful said yesterday in standing with Governor Pence, there should not be — and has never been — anything controversial about defending religious freedom. “I think once the facts are established,” Governor Jeb Bush told reporters, “people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”
Unfortunately, the Left isn’t waiting on the facts and are instead giving in to this irrational hysteria. In Washington and Connecticut, state leaders are so truth-impaired that they’re actually banning state-funded travel to Indiana because it refuses to treat Christians like second-class citizens. Connecticut’s Governor Dan Malloy (D) may have to ban state employees from commuting to work because Connecticut has a RFRA that is actually stronger than Indiana’s and the federal version.
But hypocrisy isn’t something that slows down the Left. Take the CEO of Angie’s List for example. He piled on in opposition saying that Angie’s would take their business expansion elsewhere. The reality is the company, which gives monthly subscribers a review of area service providers, was hoping to give its headquarters a $40 million expansion with $18.5 million dollars in tax subsidies from the government. However, the subsidy was in question because officials were worried the company wasn’t profitable enough to merit it.
Since Angie’s List wants to line up against Christians in Indiana, we’re joining our friends at AFA in asking families to give them a negative review of their own and cancel their accounts. “Angie’s list is a bully, plain and simple. They have chosen to bully the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and Christians everywhere by financial intimidation and threats.” In the meantime, Governor Pence seems to be searching for some way to temper the outrage. Earlier today, he announced that the state would try to find language to “clarify” what his RFRA could and could not do.
What RFRA is supposed to do is to protect people from government discrimination. But until we see the wording of Governor Pence’s proposal, the impact on religious businesses and churches is unknown. Indiana has been the target of misinformation, and bullying in both the media and online, just for joining 19 other states in aligning themselves with federal religious freedom law. What is unfolding there shows the source of true intolerance: those who want the government to punish people for freely living according to their beliefs.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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