Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) came out firing at the “very sloppy” and “ridiculous” national media during a Tuesday press conference on his state’s controversial new “religious freedom” law.
“I have to tell you that the gross mischaracterizations about the bill early on — and some of the reckless reporting by some in the media about what this bill was all about — was deeply disappointing to me and to millions of Hoosiers,” Pence declared.
Pence has been under intense pressure since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week. Critics said the bill would give businesses “licence to discriminate” against gays and lesbians, such as a florist who refused to provide services to a same-sex wedding. A number of businesses and other leaders vowed to boycott Indiana in response.
Pence said if the bill worked as some media reports described it, he would have the same concerns as his critics. However, Pence said that characterization was completely false and the law only provides “a balancing test” for the state to decide when a governmental interest should override a person’s religious beliefs.
“This law does not create a licence to discriminate. And this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said.
Pence said, although the “religious freedom” law doesn’t pave the way for discrimination, the state now has a “perception problem” that needs to be fixed. He claimed legislative leaders will move forward with a new bill this week to clarify that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow for discrimination.
Despite his criticism of the media, Pence told the local Indiana press they did a fine job addressing the controversy.
“I don’t want to let the Indiana press off the hook here, but I will anyway. I think the Indiana press has had this right from early on. But some of the national reporting on this has been ridiculous,” he said.
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