The Corner

Don’t Ever Forget That Mike Pence Threw Religious Liberty Under the Bus

I keep seeing writers on the Left and Right praising Mike Pence as a stalwart conservative. Have they forgotten the Battle of Indiana? The Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway hasn’t:

Recall that last year, Indiana passed a state religious freedom restoration act (RFRA), which was the state version of existing federal legislation that passed Congress and was signed into President Bill Clinton with overwhelming bipartisan support . . . Though the Indiana law is not in conflict with other LGBT protections, it was decried as an act of bigotry. Journalists started fishing for villains, settling on the religious owners of an Indiana pizza parlor who said they would not (hypothetically) want to cater a gay wedding. Companies such as Apple and Ebay, which have no problem doing business in bastions of enlightened attitudes on gays as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, threatened to boycott Indiana. (Curiously, they have not also threatened to boycott the existing 21 states with RFRAs.)

Did Pence stand firm to protect our nation’s first liberty? Hardly:

Once it became clear that Pence was going to have to make a stand on religious freedom, he folded. Indiana’s religious freedom law was gutted at Pence’s direction within a week of it being passed.

Pence was not only unable to withstand one single news cycle of pressure, he also essentially provided a proof-of-concept for much of the corporate bullying that’s happened since. He energized boardroom activists, showing them that a few press releases and a day or two of Twitter trends could cause even alleged “true conservatives” to back down. Pence has done good things in his career, but this capitulation has an enduring and bitter cultural and political legacy. It was an act of surprising and consequential weakness. 

A candidate whose concern for religious liberty was already suspect just selected a symbol of cultural defeat as his running mate. I’m not sure why Christian conservatives would cheer the choice.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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