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.