Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s recently-signed religious liberty law—which is being targeted heavily by the institutional left—is making religious liberty a major 2016 battlefield issue.
In fact, many potential GOP presidential candidates are rushing to Pence’s and the law’s defense as liberals attempt to undermine it—and key players in early presidential states say this issue is going to be as front and center as other major issues, like immigration, in 2016.
“I support the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act because I support religious liberty as granted to us in our Constitution,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a likely contender for the 2016 GOP nomination, said in an email to Breitbart News. “Last year I went to the Reagan Library to argue for the importance of religious liberty and make the case that it is under attack in America today. The fact that there are some who think this law in Indiana, which merely makes it clear that local governments must respect our religious liberty, is controversial clearly shows that religious liberty is indeed under attack.”
Jindal said he rejects the notion that the law is discriminatory, something critics on the left have argued.
“I oppose discrimination and I reject the notion that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is discriminatory,” Jindal told Breitbart News.
I will note that President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act at the federal level and Secretary Hillary Clinton has now said she opposes this law. It would be interesting to learn if Secretary Hillary Clinton silently opposed this protection of religious liberty when President Clinton signed it, or if she has just recently ‘evolved’ on that. The great irony is that in the minds of today’s liberals the only bigotry to be tolerated is their own bigotry against religious beliefs.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong added in an emailed statement that Walker—another likely candidate—believes in the principles of the law.
“As a matter of principle, Governor Walker believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience,” Strong said in an email.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus echoed those sentiments in an emailed statement to Breitbart News.
“Religious freedoms are enshrined in the constitution and it’s important to protect those rights,” Priebus said.
Nationally syndicated, Iowa-based, radio host Steve Deace added in an emailed statement that in 2016, Republican presidential candidates are going to need to stick up for Americans’ religious liberty against the institutional left.
“Religious liberty is going to be the most important issue for the massive evangelical base that is prevalent in GOP primaries, including early states like South Carolina and Iowa — where I live,” Deace said.
If we don’t have the right to live out our faith on a very existential level, then we also don’t have the right to engage on other issues we care deeply about from there. Any presidential candidate that is weak in the knees on this has zero chance of winning the presidency. He will perform even worse turning out the GOP base than Romney did in 2012, for there’s not much point in voting for someone that won’t defend your right to freely exist.
Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and potential 2016 GOP candidate, earlier told Breitbart News exclusively that he thinks it’s “absolutely vital” Americans stand up for religious liberty.
“It is absolutely vital that we do all we can to allow Americans to practice their religious ways, while simultaneously ensuring that no one’s beliefs infringe upon those of others. We should also serve as champions of freedom of religion throughout the world,” Carson said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the first declared GOP contender for the White House, has actually introduced and backed various pieces of legislation in the U.S. Senate intending to protect religious liberty. In his presidential campaign announcement speech, Cruz pushed the religious liberty theme.
“Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American,” Cruz said. “Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who’s expected to declare his campaign next week, recently attended a prayer breakfast and praised Christian leaders for fighting for religious liberty. “The First Amendment says keep government out of religion,” Paul said. “It doesn’t say keep religion out of government.”
In Georgia last week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that religious liberty is a “serious issue.”
“Religious freedom is a serious issue and it’s increasingly so and I think people that act on their conscience shouldn’t be discriminated against for sure,” Bush said.
Several other potential candidates didn’t respond to a request for comment, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, real estate magnate Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, with this issue brewing on the Republican side as a major battleground for the heart and soul of early primary states, the Democrats and mainstream media are hammering away at Pence and the state of Indiana over the law.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff, has used it to attempt to lure Indiana businesses into his city.
Emanuel wrote a letter last Friday to several Indiana businesses urging them to relocate into Illinois, asking them to “look next door to an economy that is moving forward into the 21st century.”
“Gov. Pence’s act is wrong. It’s wrong for the people of Indiana, wrong for the individuals who will face new discrimination, and wrong for a state seeking to grow its economy,” Emanuel wrote.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on ABC News’ This Week on Sunday that Pence’s law seems to “legitimize discrimination.”
“When you have a law like this one in Indiana that seems to legitimize discrimination, it’s important for everybody to stand up and speak out,” Earnest said.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has also attacked Pence via its “Factivists” website, hammering Pence and other potential 2016 GOP candidates.
The DNC wrote that “this isn’t just about Governor Pence” and that several “leading 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls have voiced support for similar discriminatory policies.” The group attacked Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Bush over various statements and actions they’ve taken to protect religious liberty.
In addition, Department of Labor economist Elizabeth Ashack Tweeted a statement comparing Christians who support the Pence religious liberty law to Nazis, and Apple CEO Tim Cook used the Washington Post to call laws like this “very dangerous.”