INDIANAPOLIS (March 31, 2015) – Gov. Mike Pence defended Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Tuesday morning and said lawmakers would work to clarify the divisive law that has set off a firestorm of controversy across the country.
“I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week because I support religious liberty,” Pence said during an interview on “Fox and Friends.”
He compared Indiana’s RFRA law to the federal law signed in 1993 and a similar law in other states.
“I stand by this law,” Pence said, adding that “some on the left” and the media had “mischaracterized” the act.
“There is no license to discriminate in this law,” Pence said. “I don’t think anyone should ever be mistreated because of who they are or who they love.”
Pence said the intention was to give courts guidelines on how to review cases when religious freedoms are infringed upon.
“This law was never intended, as some have mischaracterized it, to create the impression that businesses have the right to turn away customers on the basis of sexual orientation or any other reason,” Pence said.
When asked if he’d support a clause that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, Pence said that debate is in the hands of Statehouse lawmakers.
“This is a law that has worked in a very effective way, frankly, to promote tolerance around the country in cases in which religious liberty is involved,” Pence said.
“I abhor discrimination. I can tell you from my heart, if I was in a restaurant and saw a business owner deny services to someone because they were gay, I wouldn’t eat there anymore. Frankly, that’s how most Hoosiers are.”
Pence also wrote an op-ed that appears in Tuesday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.
His office provided the following excerpts:
“I want to make clear to Hoosiers and every American that despite what critics and many in the national media have asserted, the law is not a “license to discriminate,” either in Indiana or elsewhere.”
“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.”
“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. Even a claim involving private individuals under RFRA must show that one’s religious beliefs were “substantially burdened” and not in service to a broader government interest—which preventing discrimination certainly is. The government has the explicit power under the law to step in and defend such interests.”
“The hospitality and character of Hoosiers are synonymous with everything that is good about America. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Indiana residents. With the passage of this legislation, Indiana will continue to be a place that respects the beliefs of every person in our state.”
The governor will hold a news conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. We’ll carry it live on CBS4 and CBS4Indy.com.