By David Knowles, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has no problem with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act.
In a radio interview Monday night with Hugh Hewitt, Bush praised Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for signing the legislation into law.
“I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,” Bush said. “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 have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”
Since Pence signed it into law on last Thursday, the Religious Freedom Act has come under withering criticism, sparked a boycott of Indiana, and ignited a national debate about whether such legislation sanctions discrimination against homosexuals.
“These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.
During his interview with Bush, Hewitt said he did not believe that such laws, including one in the nation’s capitol, actually led to discrimination. “I do not know of a single incidence of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years,” Hewitt said.
Bush then rallied to the defense to those who he said the laws were meant to protect.
“But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington state who had a business that based on her conscience, she couldn’t be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people was a friend of hers. And she was taken to court, and is still in court, or the photographer in New Mexico,” Bush said. “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.”
Bush was not the only Republican mulling a 2016 White House run to rally to Pence’s defense on Monday. Ben Carson called the Indiana law “vital,” while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz issued his own show of support late in the day.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The Indianapolis Star, meanwhile, called on Pence and the state Legislature to formally issue protections to gay and lesbian residents.
“Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the paper stated.
(c)2015 Bloomberg News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Photo: Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)