BYE-BYE WHITE HOUSE BID! Gov. Mike Pence Drops the Ball on Religious Freedom

Written by Steve Pauwels on April 3, 2015

Let’s see, what to call legislation that apparently serves no visible purpose? I’ve got it! How about: Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)? 

Plainly, that seems to be the case after that state’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, turned in a disastrous and pusillanimous performance regarding the controversial bill at a March 31st press conference.

The Hoosier State’s version of RFRA, roughly mirroring the federal law passed in 1993 by a nearly unanimous U.S. Congress, simply extends potential protections to folks who opt to live according to their religious convictions, prohibiting state measures which would “substantially burden” a person’s spiritual sensibilities. Critics have been frenziedly squawking the effort is an open door for “discrimination” — particularly against homosexuals, who, apparently, have become contemporary American society’s demographic to be preferred above all others. 

Pence’s grovelling attempt to “clarify” and “fix” the bill he signed last week succeeded in prompting a so-what’s-the-point-of-it reaction from those of us who think a business owner ought to be able to actually abide by his/her deeply held tenets. RFRA, both the federal and various state versions, was originally crafted, in part, to protect First Amendment, free-exercise-of-religion rights for Bible-believing florists, bakers, photographers and others who, increasingly, are being brutalized into participating in fake — that is, same-sex– “weddings”. Pence, however — much rumored a plausible GOP horse in 2016’s White House race — proceeded to abase himself abjectly before a slavering media and the  take-no-prisoners “gay” lobby by expressly asserting his state’s iteration of the statute does not codify a privately held enterprise’s option to deny services to homosexual couples.

Timorously chirping that the law had been “mischaracterized” by “very sloppy reporting”, the fifty-five year old chief executive conceded, “We’ve got a perception problem here.” 

I’ll say you do, Mr. Guv: not a few God-and-Country-loving traditionalists perceive you, confronted by the mephitic forces of libertine progressivism, blinked in the crunch.

Pence even stooped to the ignominious “no-one-should-be-‘harrassed-for-who-they-love’ “ platitude. Yes, he actually resorted to that treacly abomination.

What about those of us who “love” Jesus? He’s plainly no fan of homosexual marriage (Matthew 19). Are His followers, then, who happen to be offering products or services in the marketplace, protected from pro-homosexual discrimination?

Again, the question irrepressibly bubbles to the surface: If RFRA doesn’t shield even explicitly faith-motivated, marriage-upholding citizens from anti-Christian coercion, exactly what practical benefits does it confer? 

Instead of rewiring the legislation into irrelevancy, the unacceptably frazzled Hoosier Chief Exec should have addressed the venomous, sky-is-falling hysterics by “clarifying” his position, thusly: “Religious believers have rights along with everyone else in this Republic. In fact, religious liberty was so central to our Founders’ passions, they placed it in the forefront of our Constitution. Indiana’s RFRA reflects that principle, not aiming at encouraging bigotry of any kind, but intentionally underscoring the officially sacrosanct rights of devout individuals to conduct their affairs according to the dictates of their respective faiths.”

Had Pence unfurled that unimpeachably reasonable brief, he would have found himself in admirable company: Over two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson emphasized:

No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience … We are bound … to make common cause … to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience … It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others.

In 1779, this author of the Declaration of the Independence and future US president penned, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the  propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful  and tyrannical.”

Ten years following, Jefferson’s compatriot and another president in the making, James Madison, opined,  “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship … nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”  

And centuries before any of these lucent declarations, there was this: ” We ought to obey God rather than men.” — Apostle Peter (Act 5:29)

It develops that the Religions Freedom and Restoration Act — in Indiana form or otherwise — is a rather straightforward, historically pedigreed, drearily uncontroversial bit of work. Unless, that is, one is consumed by a monomaniacal  animus toward anything championing conventional matrimony, family and sexuality as against their more exotic counterparts. 

Alas, Pence has now hitched himself to the shabby ranks of other one-time, conservative stalwarts who ultimately wilted under the glower of Lavender Lobby heat: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, NJ top-hand Chris Christie, Senator Rob Portman (OH), to “out” just a few; and within the past few days, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (whose kid, he volunteers, has signed an anti-RFRA petition. So, fealty to the Bill of Rights, apparently, goes by the wayside?)

Indiana’s evangelical Christian governor can’t stand before the coercion of Rainbow, Inc.? Good grief, keep the man far away from the Oval Office! How would Pence bear up under the demagogic browbeating of the race-hustlers or the blazing glare of an Iranian mullah, the antagonistic swaggering of a Vladimir Putin or the shrieks of feminist victimcrats? 

Delivered a golden opportunity to visibly, inspirationally stake out a defense of what’s fair and decent, shining the spotlight on vital constitutional freedoms of speech, religion and association, Pence crashingly failed. He embarrassed himself, disheartening those who’d formerly regarded him as one of the “good guys” we could count on to go to the barricades for what was once blithely considered normal and obvious, to wit: Americans shouldn’t be strong-armed by others, certainly not with State complicity, into outraging their personal, spiritual beliefs. 

In a few moments before a sharkish, gay-smitten press, Mike Pence not only demonstrated to be superfluous the RFRA statue he’d heretofore been boosting — observers could conclude he’s proven himself to be much the same. 



Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.