- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

Elected officials in Connecticut and Illinois throwing stones at Indiana’s religious freedom law are running up against those who say they live in glass houses.

Connecticut and Illinois have had Religious Freedom Restoration Act laws on the books since the 1990s, but that didn’t stop Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from taking shots at Indiana.

Mr. Malloy announced Monday that he would sign a ban on state-funded travel to Indiana, similar to measures undertaken in San Francisco and Seattle. Mr. Emanuel has sent letters to a dozen businesses in an effort to lure them to Chicago.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Republican hopefuls rush to defense of Indiana religious freedom law

“When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated,” Mr. Malloy said on Twitter.

Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the reaction shows “just how much misinformation is out there about this law.”

“It’s similar to laws in 19 other states. The federal government, of course, has the law that all these were modeled on,” Ms. Windham said. “There are other states like Massachusetts that use the same standard under their state constitution. This has been the case for at least 20 years, and the sky hasn’t fallen yet, so why would it fall tomorrow?”

The Becket Fund was among the conservative groups and legal analysts that moved Monday to counter the arguments behind growing national opposition to the law. They say the law has never been used as a loophole to allow discrimination.

“No one has ever won an exemption from a discrimination law under a RFRA standard — nowhere, not ever,” University of Virginia Law School professor Douglas Laycock said in an email. “There is no basis in experience for the wild charges being made against this bill.”

Indiana Republicans responded Monday to the outcry by announcing that they would weigh options to clarify the law’s intent, which could include anti-discrimination language. Critics say the law provides a “license to discriminate” against gays on the basis of religion.

“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 will do just that,” Indiana state Senate President Pro Tem David Long said at a press conference.

“Unfortunately, it’s been misconstrued. Perhaps misrepresented — intentionally, unintentionally, I won’t even begin to suggest that,” Mr. Long said. “But it’s very important people understand that’s not the intent of the law, there’s no history of it being used that way, and it won’t be allowed to be used that way in Indiana, either.”

Modifying the law received support Monday from CEOs at nine major Indiana companies. They sent a letter to Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leaders calling for them to approve a measure stating that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not be used to discriminate, according to the Indianapolis Star.

State Democrats held their own press conference Monday calling for an outright repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law Thursday by Mr. Pence.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees became the first major group to pull a scheduled event from Indiana, a women’s conference set for October in Indianapolis.

“We stand with the ever-growing number of corporations and associations who are taking similar action this week, and demanding fairness for all in the state of Indiana,” the union said in a statement.

Six Indiana universities released statements seeking to distance their institutions from law by emphasizing their commitment to diversity and opposition to discrimination.

Like the other state and federal legislation, the Indiana law prohibits measures that place a “substantial burden” on an individual’s free exercise of religion, barring a “compelling government interest.” Even in those cases, the government must use “the least restrictive means” of advancing that interest.

The uproar over the Indiana law may have had a chilling effect on a similar legislative push in Georgia. A hearing on a similar bill scheduled for Monday was postponed, and the state legislature is slated to adjourn Thursday.

Groups against the law, under the banner Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, plan to hold an “emergency rally” Tuesday urging lawmakers not to pass Senate Bill 129, citing the backlash in Indiana.

“Governor Pence has since responded, announcing that he would introduce a solution to try to ‘clarify’ the bill, but has yet to propose legislation that would ensure this bill would not give a ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBT Hoosiers,” the group said in a statement. “If RFRA passes into law in Georgia, there’s no doubt a similar backlash will ensue.”

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