Pence Punts on Religious Liberty: “The Courts Sort Out Those Issues…”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Earlier this week, I wrote about Mike Pence’s complicated past history on religious liberty and argued that he had two choices before him on the issue: take a strong stand or retreat back to ambiguity.

While Pence was not asked to address the topic during Tuesday’s debate, he was presented with several questions on social issues during an appearance on Dr. James Dobson’s “Family Talk” radio program yesterday. Unfortunately, Trump’s VP pick showed little willingness to defend a robust vision of religious liberty beyond a number of weak platitudes.

First, Pence was asked by Dobson how a hypothetical Trump administration would approach President Obama’s infamous contraception mandate, which has been challenged in two high-profile Supreme Court cases featuring Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor:

What I can tell you is that a Trump-Pence administration will be dedicated to preserving the liberties of our people, including the freedom of religion that’s enshrined in our Bill of Rights. … We have a long tradition in this country of accommodating religious belief and respecting religious belief. But under this administration, you’ve seen the heavy hand of government — whether it be in the Hobby Lobby case, or whether it be in the Little Sisters of the Poor [case] — where there’s an unwillingness by the administration to accommodate the religious sensibilities and convictions of ministries or private organizations. And the question of non-profits that you raise in this case is equally relevant.

But our administration is going to err on the side of freedom.

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“Connecticut Avenue” Is Back: Second Episode of The Pulse’s New Podcast

Last week we launched Connecticut Avenue, the official podcast of The Pulse 2016. Today’s episode, our second, is hosted by Jon Schweppe, contributing editor to The Pulse 2016, and Kevin Dawson, a frequent contributor to The Pulse 2016.

Schweppe and Dawson touched on a number of topics today, including last week’s debate between Trump and Clinton (0:00), tonight’s VP debate between Pence and Kaine (6:00), Planned Parenthood’s 100th anniversary (7:30), the Hyde Amendment (12:00), Illinois’s anti-life, anti-religious freedom law (16:15), and Trump’s proposal to repeal the Johnson Amendment (23:30).

Check it out, and let us know what you think in the comments! Continue Reading

Will Mike Pence Defend Religious Liberty at Tonight’s VP Debate?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

With 2016’s first and only vice presidential debate set to take place tonight, speculation has been building as to what topics will be covered once Mike Pence and Tim Kaine take the stage. While recent campaign controversies will certainly draw the headlines, it’s possible that some policy areas ignored in the first presidential debate, such as religious liberty, may make an appearance as well.

In fact, some on the left, such as the progressive Media Matters for America, are even advocating for debate moderators to query Pence on his religious liberty views, particularly given his involvement in Indiana’s RFRA controversy last year:

Before he was chosen as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was arguably best known for the controversy over the “religious freedom” bill he signed into law in 2015. The continuing nationwide debate over “religious freedom” bills and Pence’s repeated refusal to stake out his position on anti-LGBT discrimination makes the vice presidential debate the perfect opportunity to find out where Pence really stands on so-called “religious freedom” laws.


The Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has already made it clear that he supports nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. The October 4 vice presidential debate gives CBS News’ Elaine Quijano the chance to ask Pence — running as part of a presidential ticket that’s attempted to appeal to LGBT voters — for a definitive answer on whether he supports “religious freedom” legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.

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Pence in Iowa: “Donald Trump Will Advance the Cause of Life”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in Iowa this weekend where he addressed social conservatives at the annual Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner. During his remarks, Pence reiterated his full confidence in Donald Trump and made the case for Trump’s candidacy as a response to the increasing threats to Americans’ fundamental liberties:

“For the sake of the sanctity of life and all of our God-given liberties, Iowa let’s ensure that the next president making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is president Donald Trump,” Pence said to a standing ovation. “In these challenging times, Donald Trump will stand for the freedoms enshrined in all of us, including the freedom of religion.”

Pence, who opened with his trademark introduction of describing himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” described Trump as a man motivated by his faith and family.

“We both come from the same place: a foundation of faith, family, and a belief in the boundless potential of the American people,” Pence said.

Pence said he thinks Trump’s candidacy has tapped into a movement that he said is “stirring across America.”

“After years of more government, more taxes and condescending attitudes toward traditional values unfurling out of Washington, D.C., toward people of faith all across Iowa and all across this country by the millions, the hinge of history is swinging in the direction of faith and freedom, and I literally see it every day,” Pence said.

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Mike Pence Promises a Trump Presidency Will Stand for Life

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

If there was ever any question about who pro-life voters should support on Election Day, Mike Pence — who has championed pro-life initiatives in Congress and as governor of Indiana — cleared it up over the weekend. At the annual Values Voter Summit on Saturday, Gov. Pence once again demonstrated his deep roots in the pro-life movement as well as his unyielding commitment to working alongside Donald Trump to protect life in the White House.

The Trump-Pence administration will stand for the sanctity of life and defend the unborn from the first day we take office,” he said, before reiterating specific commitments that Donald Trump has made.

First, Pence said that if elected, their administration would end painful late-term abortions nationwide by advancing and signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Quoting Donald Trump himself, Pence said: “we should not be one of seven countries that allows elective abortion after 20 weeks. It goes against our core values.

Second, Pence assured voters that “the days of public funding for Planned Parenthood are over when the Trump-Pence Administration arrives in Washington, D.C.” The Trump-Pence ticket will defund America’s leading abortion chain as long as they continue to perform abortions, and re-allocate their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive care. “Donald Trump and I both know the largest abortion provider in America should not also be the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X. Things will change.”

Pence added that Donald Trump will appoint pro-life justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. Continue Reading

Mike Pence Shouldn’t Lecture Conservatives on Religious Liberty

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

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

Clinton Campaign Knocks Trump and Pence for Social Issues Statements

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

On Hillary Clinton’s official campaign website, the Democrats are reviving an old line of attack: criticizing Republicans for their so-called “radical” positions on social issues.

A webpage on the Hillary for President official website titled “Donald Trump and Mike Pence literally said all of these outrageous things” seeks to catalogue “all of the ignorant, incoherent, and divisive things these two have said.”

However, the first three issues the website references — abortion, LGBT issues, and gay marriage — are each issues that the Trump campaign has largely tried to avoid. Indeed, in his keynote acceptance address last night, Trump made an explicit appeal to the LGBT community for their support, and he has otherwise mostly refrained from discussing these issues in recent weeks.

As for Pence, his record has sometimes shown a similar deference to the left on social issues. He particularly drew ire from conservatives for caving to big business interests and neutering the Indiana version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year.

Trump and Pence have both, at various points, seemed comfortable with the “truce strategy” articulated by some Republican leaders since the 2012 election — the idea that the GOP has to focus on economic and national security issues at the expense of social issues.

Clinton’s latest line of attack goes to show one of the fatal flaws of the truce strategy: Democrats aren’t interested in declaring a truce. They will continue to attack GOP candidates on issues like abortion and marriage, regardless of Republicans’ actual stances. Continue Reading

Recap: Day Three at the GOP Convention (VIDEO)

There’s so much to talk about. So much. Where do I start?

Ted Cruz

Last night, Ted Cruz gave the most memorable political speech in recent memory. He took the stage to a standing ovation . . . and he left to an overwhelming chorus of boos.

What happened? Watch below:

The key moment comes at 19:00 in that video.

We deserve leaders who stand for principle. Who unite us all behind shared values. Who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody.

And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.

At that point, the boos rained down as delegates and convention attendees realized the speech was a non-endorsement. Cruz attempted to make light of it:

I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.

But it wasn’t just the New York delegation. The boos drowned out Cruz for the remainder of his speech. Reading the text of the speech, it doesn’t read nearly as badly as it felt at the time in Quicken Loans Arena. Many people were very angry and disappointed. And some, I’m sure, were thrilled that he refused to endorse Trump, but I didn’t see very many of them in my section. Continue Reading

Mike Pence’s Relationship with Common Core? It’s Complicated.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

If your only knowledge of Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s stance on education policy comes from articles written in the past week, you can be forgiven for believing that the GOP vice presidential nominee is a staunch opponent of Common Core.

Education Week writes that Pence is “anti-Common Core” and that “Indiana, under Pence, was the very first state to ditch” the standards. Education World similarly reports that the Hoosier State “decided, under Pence’s authority, to scrap the standards and develop their own.” And echoes both, trumpeting Pence’s “anti-Common Core education legacy” and writing that “Pence signed a bill in 2014 making Indiana the first state to back out of the Common Core State Standards.”

There’s only one problem: Pence’s repeal of Common Core was really an illusion, designed to placate conservative activists while changing little to nothing.

National Review’s Stanley Kurtz helpfully documented the entire affair in 2014:

Pence did preside over Indiana’s withdrawal from Common Core, yet he quickly turned this triumph into a charade. Instead of returning to Indiana’s superb pre–Common Core standards, Pence stacked the replacement committees to ensure the return of Common Core. Indiana’s new standards are nothing but a slightly mangled and rebranded version of what they supposedly replace.

Common Core opponents are deeply disappointed by this outcome. The plucky Indiana mothers who ignited the national rebellion against Common Core are wondering why Governor Pence seems to have betrayed their trust.

So, in other words, Pence took credit for repealing Common Core in Indiana when in fact he merely replaced it with a rebranded version of the same standards — nay, standards that might be even worse:

Indiana native and Hillsdale College professor Terrence Moore, who reviewed the “new” English standards, concluded that if the proposal were turned into him as a college paper, he would give it an F and write “plagiarism” across the top.

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Picking Mike Pence Really Was a Grand Slam for Donald Trump

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence with his wife Karen Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Mike Pence? Full disclosure: I served as head of the Super PAC seeking to draft Pence into the 2012 presidential race. Having long been persuaded of Pence’s superior leadership qualities, I’m even less objective than usual.

We called Pence “The Conservative Champion” and for good reason. Then, in 2012, Pence made the right decision: to run for governor of Indiana. That was an opportunity for distinguished public service. As it happened, it was also a perfect boot camp for the vice presidency.


One of the reasons that Pence showed himself extraordinary may have faded from general memory. It has not faded from mine. Nor has it been forgotten, or forgiven, by the left, who are now highlighting this, much to my delight. In 2010 Pence gave a major speech at the Detroit Economic Club. As the center-left then reported:

The first item of Pence’s five-point for the economy is a “sound monetary policy.” Pence elaborated that he believes a return to the gold standard could create such a policy:

PENCE: Before I move on, I’d like to note, in the midst of all that’s happened recently — massive borrowing and spending, QE2 — a debate has started anew over an anchor to our global monetary system. My dear friend, the late Jack Kemp, probably would have urged me to adopt the gold standard, right here and now in Detroit. Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, encouraged that we rethink the international currency system including the role of gold, and I agree.

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