Tags: Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | indiana | religious | freedom | law | discrimination

Trial Lawyer: Religious Freedom Laws Don't Allow Discrimination

By    |   Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 05:57 PM

Ever since the federal government passed a law in 1993 protecting religious liberties, and 20 states followed suit, "No one has ever won a discrimination case by citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," trial lawyer Heather Hansen told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

That 22-year legal track record is reason enough to let judges and juries deal with the newly enacted Indiana version of the law instead of heaping criticism on it, Hansen told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner in a panel discussion with Republican strategist Adam Goodman.

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"What it ultimately comes down to is the interpretation," said Hansen, adding that "while the law — the way that it's been written — has been objected to and argued about on either side, ultimately what would really matter is how judges and juries interpreted it."

But controversy might have been avoided if Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana had done a better job of defending his state's new RFRA and countering worries that it sanctions religiously motivated discrimination against LGBT people.

"It's a failure to communicate," Goodman said of the resulting uproar, which has Pence scrambling to revise the law in the face of criticism and threats of business boycotts.

"When this story came out … the governor should have stepped right up and said, 'I'm going to make sure that whatever the final manifestation of this law is, it will not be discriminating against anybody, not here in the state of Indiana,' " said Goodman.

"He basically did not say that right out front, and that caused a bit of a firestorm unnecessarily," said Goodman.

In Arkansas, where officials had time to watch the Indiana story play out, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Wednesday that he will not sign a similar measure passed this week by his state's legislature until it is rewritten to outlaw discrimination.

Hansen said the way to settle these questions is not necessarily to preemptively rewrite RFRA laws, but to let some RFRA cases go to court.

Goodman called it "unfortunate" that a law meant to protect religious freedoms "has now been translated into intolerance — and it's just not that."

Both guests also discussed charges of hypocrisy being leveled at Apple computer's openly gay CEO, Tim Cook, who has led opposition to the Indiana law, but whose company does business in countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

"This is one of the reasons why CEOs don't always make great public officials," said Goodman, describing Cook as "someone that's not used to being in the public arena … selling ideas as opposed to selling iPhones."

"Any time you're going to decide to take the stage and speak out against something, you should be sure that there's nothing in your past that people can then counter with," said Hansen. The alternative, she said, is "not good business and it is hypocritical."

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Ever since the federal government passed a law in 1993 protecting religious liberties, and 20 states followed suit, "No one has ever won a discrimination case by citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," trial lawyer Heather Hansen told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.
indiana, religious, freedom, law, discrimination
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2015-57-01
Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 05:57 PM
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