Earlier this year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal drew criticism from conservatives for vetoing religious liberty legislation that would protect dissenters’ right to freely exercise their religion. Now, Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is trying to give frustrated Georgians advice on how to address religious liberty questions.
“The lessons that we learned in the state of Indiana is that the American people abhor discrimination – we don’t support discrimination against anyone,” Pence said. “But at the end of the day it’s important that whenever our rights come into conflict, that the courts are the proper place to resolve those rights.”
Later in the statement, Pence said, “And Donald Trump and I really believe that these are issues that are best resolved in Georgia, in Indiana and at the state level.”
There are a few problems with Pence’s lecture to the people of Georgia.
First, Pence’s record on religious liberty is not exemplary. Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Pence signed it into law. But once Big Business, the entertainment industry, and special interest groups put pressure on Pence to backtrack, he immediately crumpled and removed some of the law’s most serious protections.
Additionally, Pence’s statement contradicts the national Republican Party’s platform. House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, have rallied in support of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which “prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Even Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican with a relatively moderate track record, has said the federal government ought to be highly involved in the defense of religious liberty. Continue Reading