Two potential Republican presidential candidates on Sunday weighed in on the so-called “religious freedom” bills sweeping the nation on Sunday, arguing that faith-based businesses are being discriminated against for exercising their sincerely-held religious beliefs.
“No business should discriminate against you because of who you are, but it should have the ability to say we’re not going to participate in certain activities that we disagree with from a religious point of view,” said Rick Santorum on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The former Pennsylvania senator shared his dismay that Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had asked for a fix to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in the wake of mounting national concern that the law sanctioned the discrimination of the LGBT community under the disguise of religion.
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On Thursday, Pence signed that new bill which clarified that his state’s law did not permit business owners to withhold services, employment, or housing from the LGBT people and other minorities. While it stopped short of making them a protected class, it did give the first state-level protections to Indiana's gay community.
“I was hoping he wouldn’t,” Santorum said. “I think the language that he had is better language."
Pence's move came after mounting pressure from business leaders across the U.S. Angie’s List announced it was halting plans to add 1,000 new jobs in Indianapolis. Ex-NBC stars Charles Barkley and Jason Collins pressured the NFL to withdraw the Final Four from Indiana. And former “Star Trek” star George Takei went as far as to urge a boycott of the entire state.
“I myself am a Buddhist, not a Christian. But I cannot help but think that if Christ ran a public establishment, it would be open to all, and He would be the last to refuse service to anyone,” he wrote in an op-ed for msnbc. “It is, simply put, the most un-Christian of notions.”
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson also signed a scaled-back version of the Indiana law on Thursday, a move that was discouraged by his own son.
On Sunday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal also shared his disappointment that Christians and their businesses face discrimination in Indiana, and his hope that legislators will rectify that. On “Meet the Press," Jindal echoed Santorum’s belief that religious liberty can be defended without condoning discrimination.
"We're not talking about day-to-day routine commercial transactions," Jindal said. “We’re talking about a very specific example here of business owners, of florists, of musicians, of caterers who are being forced to either pay thousands of dollars or close their businesses if they don’t want to participate in a wedding ceremony that contradicts their religious beliefs.”
Santorum took things a step further, saying tolerance is “a two-way street.”
“If you’re a print shop, and you are a gay man, should you be forced to print ‘God hates fags’ for the Westboro Baptist church, because they hold those sings up?” he asked. “Should you be forced to do that?”
When pressed on their presidential ambitions, both Santorum and Jindal said they would make a decision about a 2016 decision at a later date. Based on their comments on Sunday, it could be inferred that religious liberty might be a core tenant of their 2016 platforms.