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After Liberal RFRA Criticism, GOP Lawmakers Take Hits From Conservative Pastors

Brandon Smith

During a rally at the Statehouse Monday, members of the Indiana Pastors Alliance used words like “shock,” “outrage,” and “betrayal,” while accusing GOP leaders of “selling out” religious liberty when they passed the religious freedom bill’s “fix.” 

But Indiana Pastors Alliance executive director Ron Johnson says the fix was akin to passing a gay rights bill.  Johnson says GOP leaders “cowardly capitulated” to the pressure of what he calls the “gay mafia,” a “media lynch mob,” and big business.  And he says leaders need to be held accountable.

“We’re the ones that write the checks.  We’re the ones that make the phone calls.  We’re the ones that are going out there doing the grunt work of this party," Johnson told the crowd. "We’re the ones that ask them, ‘Are you standing for life?’ ‘Oh yes we are.’ ‘Are you standing for marriage?’ ‘Oh yes we are.’ ‘Will you protect my religious liberty?’ ‘Oh yes we are.’ And then you come down here and you roll over and you cave in and you blame us.”

Both Senate GOP Leader David Long and Speaker Brian Bosma – who Johnson called out by name in his speech – say the RFRA fix didn’t harm religious liberty and won’t be revisited this session. 

Long last week blanched at the criticism.

"Saying that we somehow damaged religious liberty -- I think that's probably one of the most ignorant statements I've heard in a long time," Long says.

The religious freedom bill, or RFRA, ignited a firestorm earlier this session over accusations it would be used to discriminate against the LGBT community. 

Lawmakers quickly worked to quell the outrage by enacting a so-called fix that said the law couldn’t be used to deny services to anyone. Many groups complained the changes don't go far enough and the only solution to the problem is a repeal of the bill and the addition of gay rights protections to the state's civil rights statute.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.