- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

Indiana’s two top lawmakers said Monday that they would craft a change to the state’s new religious freedom law to make clear that it would not be used to discriminate against anyone.

“To the extent that we need to clarify through legislative action that this law does not, and will not, be allowed to discriminate against anyone, we plan to do just that,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long said at a press conference with House Speaker Brian Bosma.

The Republican leaders said they were already working with colleagues to “fix” the law.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week, sparking a backlash from gay-rights advocates and their allies over fears the law would be used against serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Mr. Pence and others have defended the law, saying similar laws are on the books in 19 other states and in federal law, and they have not been misused.

The goal of the law is to block “government overreach” into people’s constitutionally protected freedom of religion, Mr. Pence told news outlets in recent days.

Traditional values groups defended Mr. Pence and the religious-freedom laws.

These laws leave people “free to live and work according to their religious beliefs,” said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council (FRC).

“What is unfolding in Indiana,” Mr. Perkins added, “reveals the source of true intolerance: those who want the government to punish people for freely living according to their beliefs.”

However, gay-rights groups and their allies have recast the religious-freedom law as “religious bigotry” laws, and some businesses, associations and sports and entertainment figures have joined them to protest discrimination.

Some have urged the NCAA to disassociate with Indiana over the law. The collegiate athletics association is holding the Final Four of its annual men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis on April 4-6.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed an executive order Monday which would block state-funded travel to Indiana as long as its religious freedom law remains in effect.

Mr. Malloy had announced his decision to issue the order last week, tweeting, “When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by.”

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the state House of Representatives was preparing to vote on their RFRA bill, HB 1228.

The bill, known as the Conscience Protection Act, easily passed in the state Senate on Friday by a vote of 24-7.

On Monday, it passed a House committee by an 11-5 vote. It could be considered for a full House vote Tuesday, according to Associated Press.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he will sign the bill, but is under pressure from protesters not to do so.

In Georgia, a religious-freedom bill has passed the state Senate, but is awaiting consideration by a House committee.

A planned meeting on the bill Monday was cancelled. Protesters plan a rally on Tuesday.

Georgia lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn this week,

In a Monday statement, Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, said the religious freedom bills allow individuals to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities.

Mr. Levchin warned that states enacting such a law is “a fundamental step backwards” and will make it hard for states to attract “high paying high-tech jobs.”

The Human Rights Campaign and openly gay Apple chief executive Tim Cook are among those urging Mr. Hutchinson to veto the bill instead of signing it.

However, a religious-freedom advocate said Monday said Religious Freedom Restoration Acts “have been on the books around the country for over 20 years and the sky has not fallen.”

Such laws have “protected Native Americans, Santeria priests and Muslim prisoners, among many other minority religious groups,” Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Monday.

Responding to claims that the NCAA should decamp Indiana over its new religious-freedom law, Ms. Arriaga chided the association, saying: “There are plenty of places in the world where NCAA could go if it really likes government-enforced orthodoxy and intolerance of religious differences.”

“My own parents’ homeland, Cuba,” is such a place, she said, “but those places don’t typically show up on the March Madness Bracket.”

The FRC and other traditional-values group say faith-based business owners and others have been harassed, taken to court or bankrupted when they objected to being forced by the government to subsidize abortion-causing products or personally participating in same-sex wedding activities.

In Indiana, 111 Cakery, went out of business last year after its devout Christian owners declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding and protests ensued. According to the Christian Post, the owners posted a sign on their window saying they let their lease expire in March.

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