'Religious Freedom' Measure Should Look Familiar to Idaho Statehouse Watchers


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence spent the better part of Sunday defending his state's new "religious freedom" law, which looks quite familiar to Idaho Statehouse watchers.

Pence's measure prohibits any state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs—and by "person" the law goes on to include religious institutions, businesses and associations.

A year ago, Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker floated a pair of measures—House bills 426 and 427—also deemed "religious freedom" bills. 

"Government has gone so far that it is forcing these conflicts and controversies," Luker wrote to Boise Weekly. "People of faith have finally decided to say we have to do something to protect ourselves from this assault upon our rights, which after all are protected in the very first amendment to the Constitution." 

The bills ultimately got hung up in committee and never made it to the House or Senate floors. Outrage over the measures, which had striking similarities to other "religious freedom" bills introduced around the country in 2014, centered on what Luker and others attempt to set a new standard by which cases involving religious objections would be judged.

Meanwhile, Pence appeared on ABC's This Week on Sunday and refused to directly answer whether under his law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. Pence was asked directly six times during the awkward exchange with host George Stephanopoulos.

"This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach," said Pence. Asked again, he said, "Look, the issue here is still, 'is tolerance a two-way street or not?'"

More than a few businesses have already nixed their desire to do business in Pence's state. Angie's List has shelved a headquarters expansion plan that would have brought the state 1,000 jobs. Safesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said he would no longer send customers or employees to Indiana. Meanwhile, the NCAA suggested that it could move future events elsewhere; the men's Final Four had already been scheduled for Indianapolis next weekend.