Becket Fund: ‘Fix’ Would 'Create Very Dangerous Change in Indiana Law'

By Barbara Hollingsworth | April 2, 2015 | 3:04 PM EDT

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long (left) and House Speaker Brian Bosma announce plans to revise the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act at a news conference in Indianapolis on April 2, 2015. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) –-  Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long announced Thursday that they would submit a new version of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to Gov. Mike Pence to counter criticism that it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

“It was never intended to discriminate against anyone," Long told reporters. "That perception led to the national protests we've seen."

But a lawyer for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says the proposed legislative “fix” is not only unnecessary, it would undermine the religious rights of Hoosiers and leave them vulnerable to criminal prosecution for following their religious beliefs, the opposite of what RFRA was intended to do.

“We think the Indiana law is a very good law which is modeled on what has worked at the federal and state level for 20 years, and which is similar to constitutional provisions that are backed up by 50 years of jurisprudence,” Becket legal counsel Daniel Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “These laws work very well to protect the religious rights of minorities.

“All the Indiana law does is the same thing that’s been working very well for a long time,” he pointed out. “Today the Indiana legislature proposed a ‘fix’ that we think is 1) unnecessary; and 2) itself is broken and would create a very dangerous change in Indiana law.

“Individuals asked to be part of a same-sex wedding who decline because they feel it violates their religious beliefs would not be able to raise the RFRA under the ‘fix’,” Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “It would leave them defenseless. It also makes specific allowances for criminal prosecution. So not only is the ‘fix’ not helpful, it should not be accepted.

“We have a choice on how to handle these situations. We can allow government to drive religious people out of business, fine them and possibly imprison them, or we can allow religious people to have their day in court, and let the courts balance their religious claims against other competing values.”

Some conservative leaders also stepped up to defend Indiana’s original version of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.

“Gov. [Mike] Pence is going through a rhetorical lynching,” Gary Bauer, former Republican presidential candidate and president of American Values, told CNSNews.com. “This is what we were warning about in the [Manhattan] Declaration, and why the Declaration was written.”

Besides upholding the “sanctity of life” and the “dignity of marriage,” the Manhattan Declaration, which was signed by Bauer and a number of other religious and political leaders in 2009, championed “religious freedom”.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who asked the Indiana legislature for a "fix'" to the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (AP photo)

“No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions,” the Declaration stated.

It warned that “freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.”

Such restrictions “undermine the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism [Alexis de] Tocqueville so prophetically warned of,” the Declaration continued. “Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.”

“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the tolerance movement used by the cultural Left in recent decades was just a poll-driven strategy and not an actual commitment to tolerance,” Bauer continued, adding that the Indiana law is being used to cut off debate and redefine anyone with traditional moral values as a bigot. “Every pastor and every parent should be deeply worried about what is happening in Indianapolis,” he said.

CNSNews.com asked Bauer whether he thinks such tactics will succeed.

“I think the jury is out, which is why this is so disturbing,” he replied. “There’s still many people in the faith-based community who think they can stay away from the issue and be left alone, which is demonstrably not true. The other side will not be satisfied until everybody is forced to bend their knee at the altar of moral relativism.”

But Bauer warned the large corporations that have joined in on the attack of Indiana’s RFRA that offending millions of faith-based consumers comes at a price. “If Big Business prefers they go someplace else, they may get their wish,” he said.

Other conservatives pointed out that the U.S. was founded by those seeking religious liberty, which is the bedrock of American democracy.

“Isn’t this why the Pilgrims fled Europe?” asked Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica and president of the Media Research Center (MRC), the parent company of CNSNews.com.

"It's time to stand up, loudly and unequivocally, to the radical fascists who are out to destroy religious freedom in America. How dare they dictate to Christians how they may, or may not live their Christian faiths? We do not live in communist China or North Korea,” Bozell said.

“Christians -- or anyone of any other faith -- hold truths to be sacred and cannot be compelled by the state to violate them. This anti-Christian bigotry, whether from the state or corporate America, must stop. Otherwise Christians in short order will be forced to participate in civil disobedience.”

“Religious liberty is a foundational value in American society,” echoed Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), who also signed the Manhattan Declaration. ”That’s why 19 states and the federal government have enacted similar RFRA legislation to protect individuals – including employers and business owners – from being coerced by government into betraying their deeply held religious convictions,”

“Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives pro-life Hoosiers the opportunity to hold on to and defend their values in the public square. This could include, for example, an employer or organization objecting to coverage for abortifacient drugs and devices, or employees who do not want to be forced to participate in abortions.

“We stand with all pro-life Americans fighting for their right to live and do business in accordance with their deepest beliefs,” she said.


Some criticized the media’s overreaction to Indiana’s version of a federal law that was passed 22 years ago when there are similar laws currently on the books in 19 other states.

“The hysteria is based on a lie driven by the cultural fascists on the Left,” Bill Donohue, a Manhattan Declaration signer and president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told CNSNews.com.

“The Indiana law mirrors a 1993 law supported by Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama when he was in the Illinois state Senate. It’s the same law that’s been passed in many parts of the country. It doesn’t mention sexual orientation.

“This is a classic case of the elites versus the people, and an example of the cultural apartheid in the United States,” he added. “The people in ‘flyover country’ still have traditional moral values. What’s different now is that corporate America is gone. Now you have to have a rainbow ribbon on your cubicle in most places if you want to work there.

“It’s unfortunate that during Holy Week, instead of talking about religious liberty, we have to defend it against attacks based on a lie,” Donohue told CNSNews.com.

Other conservatives pointed out that for RFRA opponents, tolerance only goes one way.

“Powerful liberal lobbies claim to champion tolerance, but the exact opposite is on full display this week,” Jerry Johnson, president & CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) who also signed the Declaration, said in a statement.

”This attack on Governor Mike Pence and other supporters of RFRA is unfounded and disturbing,” he went on.

“Like the 20-year-old federal RFRA signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the recently approved Indiana RFRA demands deference to religious liberty unless there is a ‘compelling government interest’ achieved by the ‘least restrictive means’. Such a fundamental freedom deserves a real place at the table when a courtroom battle results from government overreach.”

Alex McFarland, a host on American Family Radio (AFR) and director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University, said that the furor raised over the Indiana law only demonstrates that instead of backing down, more states should pass RFRAs.

“Today, as religious freedom is under attack, more states need to re-confirm in their laws that the right of every American to live and work according to their faith is paramount to freedom. Americans should not live in fear of government retribution for their religious beliefs,” he said.

Related: Huckabee on Indiana Law: 'This Is a Manufactured Crisis by the Left'

Related: Governor in a political firestorm over Indiana law

Related: Pence Hopes to Sign RFRA 'Fix' by the End of the Week


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