GOP presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and likely candidate Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, expressed support Monday for Indiana’s controversial religious freedom bill that critics charge is a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Cruz, who launched his 2016 presidential campaign last Monday, described the law as an effort to support “religious liberty.”
“I want to commend Governor Mike Pence for his support of religious freedom, especially in the face of fierce opposition. There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience,” Cruz said.
“Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I’m proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same.”
Bush, speaking with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, also defended the law as similar to legislation in Florida, and said it is similar to existing federal law.
“I think if they actually got briefed on the law, they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs. To be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.
“There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there’s been some kind of discrimination.”
Article continues belowAs The Atlantic noted earlier Monday, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does Florida’s or any of the other states with RFRAs except South Carolina.
The Indiana statute also allows “a person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” to use the law as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, “regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is a party to the proceeding.”
The federal RFRA does not include any such language.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is poised to launch her Democratic presidential campaign next month, voiced her opposition to the measure last week. She wrote on Twitter that it was “sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.”