Indiana governor Mike Pence is now calling for legislation “clarifying” that his state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not give any business the right to deny services to anyone. This is a craven capitulation. The act as passed allows courts to do a balancing test. The clarification seriously threatens the newly created balance. It would tilt the playing field away from those who would assert religious objections to various commercial activities. RFRA or no, those objections are often valid.
Frankly, RFRA’s balancing test is, if anything, only a mild protection. From the First Amendment alone, we should understand (in my opinion) that the nation’s traditions of religious freedom should protect the right of a traditional Christian baker not to make a cake for a same-sex marriage. It should protect the right of a Muslim baker not to provide unleavened bread for a Jewish seder. It should protect the right of a homosexual photographer to decline to take photos of a married couple standing under a Biblical inscription about marriage being between man and woman. It should protect the right of a Jewish deli owner to deny services to a Muslim hungry from a demonstration march where the Muslim held aloft a sign saying “Death to Israel and Jews.”
Pence says his new goal is this: “Make it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone.” That’s pathetic. Apart from practicing invidious discrimination based on immutable characteristics, a business owner should be able to refuse to participate in any particular event/ceremony/practice that violates the tenets of his faith. Period.
Mike Pence just showed himself unworthy of the presidency — if, indeed, he is still considering making a run for it.