Indiana has been under an "avalanche of intolerance" from people opposed to the state's new religious freedom restoration law,
said Gov. Mike Pence Sunday, but he supports the law and insisted that it will not be changed.
"I'm determined to clarify this," the Republican governor, who signed the controversial bill into law last week, told ABC "This Week"
host George Stephanopoulos. "This is about protecting the religious liberty of people of faith and families of faith across this country."
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The federal religious freedom act was signed into law more than 20 years ago by then-President Bill Clinton to layout a framework for ensuring that scrutiny is given when government action impinges upon Americans' religious activities, Pence pointed out, saying that further, his state's new law is the same version that President Barack Obama himself voted for while he was a state senator in Illinois.
"I was proud to sign it into law last week," Pence said.
But he denied that the law's purpose is to discriminate against the LGBT community, but rather to "empower individuals when they believe that the actions of government impinge on their constitutional [rights of] freedom of religion.
After Obamacare and cases like the one filed by the craft store giant Hobby Lobby
concerning a federal law requiring it provide contraception coverage in its employees' insurance policies, "a lot of people...feel their freedom is being impinged upon," Pence said. "This is not about discrimination. This is about empowering people on government overreach."
Stephanopoulos tried to pin the governor down on the position that the law makes it legal for businesses to refuse service to gay couples, asking him six times if it is discriminatory. Pence said the question comes from the "misinformation" that is out about the law.
"There's been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention," said Pence. "People are trying to make it about one particular issue, and now you're doing that as well."
Indiana's new law echoes the federal religious freedom restoration act, he continued, and does not apply to "disputes between individuals unless government action is involved."
Further, Pence pointed out, in more than 20 years, "the religious freedom restoration act has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in the country."
Businesses and conventions have been pulling out of Indiana
following the law's signing, including the online business listing site Angies List,which had sought an $18.5 million incentive package from Indianapolis' City-County Council to add 1,000 jobs over five years.
Pence denied that discrimination would occur in his state, though, as "there are no kinder, more welcoming, more hospitable people in America than in the 92 counties of Indiana."
The law means, Pence said, if there is an action or law that individuals believe infringes on freedom of religion, "they have the opportunity to go the court, go the court and the court would evaluate the circumstances under the standards articulated in this act. That's all it is."
And the headlines that say Indiana is now "licensed to discriminate," Pence said, are a "red herring" that he finds "deeply troubling ... to millions of Americans, and frankly, people all across the state of Indiana, who feel troubled about government overreach."
Further, Pence said he will not push for protection of homosexual rights to ever be included as part of the bill.
"It's not on any agenda," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with this law...this isn't about individual rights or preferential rights for anyone."
However, if the general assembly sends a section to amplify and clarify "what the law really is, and what it has been for the last 20 years, then I'm open to that," he said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, appearing on the show just after Pence, said that as the governor is going back two decades to justify the action. "it may raise questions" and accused him of being "in damage control mode this morning."
Earnest didn't answer a question directly over what Obama thinks of a call to boycott Indiana, but did tell Stephanopoulos that "when you have a law like this in Indiana that seems to legitimize discrimination, it's important for everybody to speak out."
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