Washington, DC - It's safe for people to live in or travel to Indiana, no matter what their sexual preferences might be. It's also safe there for people of faith, as a result of the state's new religious freedom law.
"Yet, massive protests and disruptive boycotts have been triggered by individuals who obviously have not taken the time to find out what the new law is all about," according to personal rights advocate Dan Weber. "The law," he said, "does not give anyone or any organization the right to discriminate against anyone for whatever reason. It is aimed at checking the potential for government overreach when it comes to an individual's right to practice his or her religion."
Weber, who is president of the Association of Mature American Citizens, asked if anyone has read the legislation. The core of the measure is in this paragraph: "Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."
Nowhere does it say that one individual or company is allowed to trample the rights of another individual for any reason, he said. "It's important to note that 19 other states already had very similar laws on their books prior to the passage of the Indiana law, which mirrors the federal Religious Freedom and Reformation Act that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. The federal law was applauded as landmark legislation and those 19 other states were not hammered when they enacted their laws."
Meanwhile, the Arkansas legislature passed its own religious freedom act with wording similar to that of the Indiana law. And, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed it into law after the Arkansas lawmakers tweaked the measure to avoid the kind of backlash Governor Pence has faced.
The Indiana legislature also enacted clarifications to its bill and the governor has signed the updated law in the hopes of quelling the criticism.
So why is Governor Pence taking so much heat?
One blogger posted a message on the Internet blaming the protests on "media speculation ("openly cited"), and ("potential impact"), rather than an existing threat." He wrote that "the civil rights of all Americans are a serious issue. So are our religious rights. When they conflict, that's a job for our courts to sort out."
Could it be that Pence is under fire because he is close to the Koch brothers and that he might soon announce that he will seek the GOP presidential nomination, Weber opined. "Or is it just an attack on Republicans, in general. After all, liberal stalwart George Stephanopoulos, who some call a not-so-independent reporter for ABC News, was pretty rough on the Governor when he interviewed Pence recently. It's only theory on my part, but it's a good question and it's interesting that no reporter has sought to explain the reason or reasons why the Indiana law was singled out by the protesters."