We’re sorry, Indiana.
Apparently, the public’s misunderstanding of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that protects businesses and corporations’ religious freedoms but fails to protect the LGBT community from discrimination, is because the media “smeared” it.
During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence took a few moments to clarify what the real issue with RFRA is: a perception problem.
He repeated this claim several times throughout the press conference, which he peppered with phrases like “sloppy,” “reckless,” “ridiculous” and “irresponsible” reporting.
At one point during the conference, Pence said there has been a “gross mischaracterization” of the law, which will go into effect July 1.
One of the leading arguments among proponents of the law is that Indiana simply adopted a state version of a federal law that was put into affect over 20 years ago.
Addressing those who say Senate Bill 101 mirrors the federal RFRA he introduced while serving as a congressman, senator Chuck Schumer wrote on his Facebook page, “That may be true only if you’re using a Funhouse mirror. In reality, it is completely false, and a disingenuous argument.”
He insists supporters of the law cease and desist immediately with the comparisons of the federal RFRA of 1993 to “their present, misguided law.”
So what’s the difference between Indiana’s new law and the federal government’s? For starters, the language.
While the federal RFRA was written with very narrow language to protect the religious freedoms of individuals, Indiana’s was written in more broad terms, leaving it open to interpretation and making way for discrimination.
Whether Pence actually believes the law is intended to discriminate or not, the fact of the matter is that it does.
His pre-face-saving tour silence and apathy towards amending the law, despite national outcry, is a form of discrimination in itself, and serves as somewhat of an indication as to what the governor’s intentions really are.
During the press conference, Pence said adding the LGBT community to Indiana’s protected class is not on his agenda.
Ignore the fact that the law is so broadly written it encourages discrimination.
That’s not the problem Indiana is facing.
Don’t worry about the fact that even though the federal RFRA was written to protect individuals, Indiana’s was written to protect private companies and corporations.
That’s not the problem.
Pay no attention to the fact that the protection of a targeted demographic is not on the governor’s agenda.
That’s not the problem either.
The real problem with the RFRA, according to Pence, is how the media has portrayed it.
If it was the media’s gross mischaracterization of the law, and not his team of advisers or trusted colleagues, that prompted Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to publicly criticize the law and sign an executive order that requires anyone doing business with the city to abide by Indy’s human rights ordinance, the media sincerely apologizes.
If it was the media’s wild tales of discrimination that prompted Bill Oesterie, who gave massive support to Pence’s 2012 campaign, to pull his company Angie’s List out of a $40 million expansion deal with the city and state, the media sincerely apologizes for that, too.
The five-year expansion would have added 1,000 company jobs and the expanded campus would have helped revitalize the surrounding community.
We apologize to one of our own, Amanda Brinkman, for jeopardizing her future with the company for the sake of some headlines.
Brinkman, who graduates this year, earned a summer internship with the seemingly ever-expanding company prior Oesterie’s decision to halt its expansion.
Angie’s List, an Indianapolis-based company, is one of several companies to protest the state’s new law, including Eli Lilly and the Indianapolis Pacers.
Pence, who said multiple times that the heat Indiana has come under because of RFRA offends him, doesn’t seem to realize the in-house damage he caused.
Despite state universities, professional sports teams and major Indiana-based businesses speaking out against their own, Pence maintained that “Indiana’s name is still good,” at Tuesday’s press conference.
How can you call a car “good” if the engine refuses to run?
The backlash from RFRA has virtually severed any chance Pence previously had of running for President, and then, after a day of silence following a disastrous appearance on ABC, he went live again.
His bull-headed reactions, bull-sounding breathing and bullshit responses during the press conference were also political suicide.
It’s time for the governor to worry less about his national image and his political ego, recognize the issues created on the home front and salvage what’s left of his first – and almost certainly only – term in office.