Gov. Mike Pence Has Much To Answer For During Tonight's Vice Presidential Debate

Image by  Gage Skidmore /Flickr

Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In today's post on AU’s Wall of Separation, Simon Brown outlined five questions he hopes will be asked at tonight's vice presidential debate. One of these is of particular importance to us here at Protect Thy Neighbor: 

What does religious freedom mean to you?

Religious freedom means the right to believe (or not believe) according to your conscience. It also means you have the right act on your beliefs, unless doing so would harm others.

Yet last year, Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana's governor, commandeered religious freedom so that religion is an excuse to discriminate against others.

In 2015, Gov. Pence signed a "religious freedom" law, opening the floodgates of the harmful state bills we saw in 2016. As originally written, the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) could have allowed people, non-profit organizations, and even businesses to use religion as an excuse to trump nondiscrimination statutes, deny access to healthcare, and create exceptions to nearly every state and local law. Even with a so-called fix to the RFRA, there is ample room for discrimination in healthcare and education which could still allow religious organizations to use the law to harm others. Nor did the so-called fix prevent an Indiana mother  from trying to use the RFRA as a defense in a child abuse case.

This is not true religious freedom. As Dena Sher wrote back in July when Donald Trump picked Gov. Pence as his running mate, the Indiana RFRA’s passage led to an outcry from both religious and business leaders and a boycott that could cost the state $256.4 million over the next six years. Gov. Pence himself saw his approval ratings drop right after signing the bill. 

But the true cost of the Indiana RFRA is not economic or political— it's the harms the state's women, LGBTQ individuals and families, those who belong minority religions, and others who could face discrimination because of this law. And for that, Gov. Pence has much to answer. We hope the tonight’s debate moderator feels the same.

Want to know why you should oppose Indiana-style RFRA bills? Find out here.