Indiana Governor Mike Pence just signed a law that is making him very unpopular with certain crowds. The crowd-sourced review site Yelp has called for a boycott of the entire state. Angie’s List cancelled a project that would bring a thousand jobs to Indianapolis over 5 years. Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted that he is “disgusted.” Even Miley Cyrus had some choice words for the governor.

What has these people in an uproar? Indiana’s new law defends the religious freedom of its residents from government coercion – just like 40% of other states and the federal government. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the law a “new wave of legislation, but in fact, laws with similar wording have been on the books all around the country for over 20 years. The principle has been around since the first settlers arrived on the shores of New England.

Governor Pence signed Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – the law that was used to defend Hobby Lobby’s right to refuse paying for abortifacient birth control medications. The federal law was passed by 97% percent of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Thousands of people didn’t protest then. Pence said there’s no reason to get upset or scare people with all sorts of imagined implications. The language of the law is nearly identical to other laws on the books, none of which have been used as a license to discriminate. He defended the law in several statements:

For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.

Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.

Religious liberty is certainly in need of restoration in our country. It has particularly suffered under the onslaught of recently-coined “hate crimes.” Discrimination and intolerance have become the worst sins a person could commit.

Historically, religious freedom trumps freedom of expression except for situations where the government has a “compelling interest.” The burden is on the government to prove its case merits placing a burden on citizens. The American tradition dating back to our Founders has always protected a person’s sincere beliefs, even and especially when others disagree with them. Yet we have seen a movement in our country that willfully forgets this when dealing with certain “politically incorrect” beliefs, like a traditional definition of marriage or the protection of life in the womb.

Citizens for Self Governance’s own Michael Farris was an integral part of drafting RFRA at the federal level, working for its passage in 1993, and actually suggested the name of the bill. Many different groups worked together for this bill, across both religious and party lines, “because of one overriding principle — religious freedom is for everyone.” If this protection is only for people who share the majority view, then religious freedom no longer has any meaning.

Of course, the real problem is not the hysteria surrounding the bill, it’s an overreaching federal government that can’t – or won’t – control itself. This bill is a step in the right direction for freedom loving Americans everywhere, not just in Indiana.

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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