Here's the deal with Mike Pence
On February 9, 2022, Andrew W. Coy asked, "What's the Deal with Mike Pence?" One thing is that former vice president Pence was always a weak leader.
While he was governor, Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, which essentially clarified a federal law that Democrats overwhelmingly sponsored and President Clinton signed into law. Then-senator Barack Obama supported a similar state law in Illinois. Indiana's version simply stated that, in civil cases, courts could consider religious burdens that the conflict caused. The law never said religion would trump any other right.
The left took this to mean that anytime a gay person came into conflict with a religious person — e.g., baking an LGBT "wedding" cake — Indiana courts would always decide in favor of the religious argument. The MSM went crazy and went out of their way to find a person in some tiny Indiana town who declared that her pizza place would never cater to a gay "wedding." The pizza place was canceled immediately by protesters from around the country.
Our state was attacked from every direction as being full of racists. Companies like SalesForce threatened to leave the state altogether. Angie's List disingenuously claimed that, due to the RFRA, it was canceling a taxpayer-funded expansion (that was soon to be voted down anyway).
Nonetheless, Pence and our lawmakers quickly wrote an amendment specifying that "the RFRA does not authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service."
In other words, Pence and the legislators screwed up, first by creating a law we probably didn't even need in the first place, and then by creating a law to protect LGBT and other rights at the expense of religious rights.
The truth of the matter is that Indiana did not pass a law targeting the LGBT community or anyone else. The law did nothing more than clarify existing federal and state laws that various circuit courts of appeals and even the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama have ruled on.
At the time, several courts had interpreted differently some of the nineteen then-existing state and federal RFRA laws. The basic question had always been whether the RFRA be used as a defense in lawsuits not involving the government.
Indiana's original RFRA stated, "A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened ... by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation ... as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding."
It turns out that Indiana's law was directly in accordance with what four federal appellate courts and the Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder had already recognized about the federal RFRA law. That is, defendants may in fact use religious beliefs as a defense in private lawsuits not involving the government.
This did not mean that a religious defense would automatically apply in a given case. It meant only that the court could consider a religious defense if the defendant raised one. In our not always black-and-white world, when two codified principles of freedom come up against each other in a court of law, one should not automatically trump the other. This is as it should be. We must always try to determine what is the best outcome for each case.
Indiana was simply making the RFRA law clearer as to how it should be interpreted in the courts of the State of Indiana...an interpretation already well established in case law by various federal appeals courts and by the Obama Justice Department.
Unfortunately, then-governor Pence and other lawmakers did not have the courage to defend the merits of the RFRA. As to whether or not Pence could have done anything about the 2020 presidential election, I don't know — but I fear he would not have...even if he could have.
By the way, after the amendment, these door stickers began popping up everywhere: