By Tony Perkins
Indiana is more than the “crossroads of America” — it’s the crossroads of the entire religious liberty debate. The Left made sure of that, fabricating all kinds of baseless outrage over the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). What started out as a harmless affirmation of the First Amendment turned into a blow-up of national proportions — with “truth optional” journalism leading the way.
Unfortunately for Governor Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the hysteria started well before last Thursday, when he officially inked the bill into law. Instead, the Left’s propaganda machine has been out in full force all month, working to deceive people into believing that this measure will somehow give Christians the ability to “discriminate.”
Nothing, Governor Pence said Sunday, could be further from the truth. “There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been on the books for more than 20 years. It does not apply to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved. And in point of fact, in more than two decades, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in this country.”
Like most states, Indiana doesn’t think the federal or state governments should force Americans to violate their faith. Is that controversial? The media seems to think so. They believe — as the President does — that surrendering your beliefs is just the price of doing business.
“Is tolerance a two-way street or not?” Governor Pence fired back on ABC’s “This Week.” “There’s a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today having to do with people on the Left,” Pence said. “But here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that has been poured on our state is just outrageous.”
Meanwhile, companies from Angie’s List to the NCAA are either intent on strong-arming Christians or too lazy to get the facts, because both are threatening to pull out of Indiana if it won’t allow the bullying of believers to continue. But here’s the irony: if these companies refuse to do business with people who protect religious liberty, then they’ll have to stop doing business with the federal government — because thanks to President Bill Clinton, it has the same law! In fact, the legislation was such a political no-brainer in 1993 that it had only three dissenters in all of Congress. Now, after 22 years, we’re supposed to believe that it’s suddenly turned into a weapon for prejudice?
As President Clinton himself said, “(O)ne of the reasons (the Founders) worked so hard to get the First Amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp.”
And usurp it, government has. We’ve watched with horror as Christian bakers lose their shops over same-sex “weddings,” Catholic nuns are forced to sue for the right not to cover birth control, and Mormon policemen are fired for not doing enough to celebrate gay pride. Times have changed, shrugged White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. In not so many words, he argued that the government’s interest in religious liberty was “so 20 years ago.” When reporters brought up the Democrats’ support for RFRAs (including state senator Barack Obama’s!), Earnest fired back, “If you have to go back two decades to try to justify something that you’re doing today, it may raise some questions about the wisdom of what you’re doing.”
It is true that under President Obama, religious liberty is a thing of the past. But thank goodness states like Indiana aren’t content to keep it that way. We stand with them — and any state — determined to treat Christians and other people of faith with the same tolerance the Left demands for itself. You can join us in standing with Governor Pence by signing our petition of support — click here! Then, tune in tonight as I defend Indiana’s new RFRA on Fox News’s “Kelly File” in the 9:00 p.m. (ET) hour.
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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