INDIANAPOLIS (TheBlaze/AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law during a private ceremony on Thursday, praising the legislation as an opportunity to support religious conscience for “every Hoosier of every faith.”
“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said in a statement.
While some convention organizers and business leaders had opposed the proposal amid concern it could allow discrimination against gay people, Pence cited faith-based battles over the Affordable Care Act as his reasoning for signing the bill.
Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people — including businesses and associations — to follow their religious beliefs.
Pence, a Republican, backed the bill as it moved through the Legislature and spoke at a Statehouse rally last month that drew hundreds of supporters of the proposal.
In his statement, the governor seemingly attempted to temper any fears that the religious freedom bill was rooted in bias.
“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” Pence said. “In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved.”
But some critics have voiced major concerns.
In a letter to Pence sent Wednesday, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) warned that the legislation was causing them to reconsider plans to hold their 6,000-person General Assembly in Indianapolis in 2017.