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Governor Lends His Support To Controversial Religious Hiring Bill

Nicholas Eckhart

As the Senate gets ready to discuss reinforcing the Indiana Constitution‘s religious conscience clause, Governor Pence is lending his support to the effort.

Pence made a surprise appearance at a rally for what supporters call the "religious freedom restoration act." 19 states have passed similar laws, requiring the state to show a "compelling interest" for any action that would burden religious belief.

He praised the approximately 80 people gathered at the statehouse for supporting "freedom of conscience," which he calls a bedrock of both the state and federal constitutions.

Opponents charge the bill seeks to create a right to discriminate. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana points to a Michigan case where a school guidance counselor refused to work with gay students. 

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) has responded by noting last year‘s controversy in Houston, when city lawyers tried to subpoena the texts of sermons from pastors who opposed an anti-discrimination ordinance.

Supporters say their inspiration for the law was last year‘s Hobby Lobby decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted a religious exception to birth-control requirements in the federal health care law for closely-held family corporations.