Liberty Counsel Chairman Matthew Staver is urging Republican governors in the cross hairs of the religious freedom debate to stop being “wimps” and let the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in their states to stand as they are.
On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., ordered members of legislature to “clarify” and “change” the law he signed last week to make it clear that no discrimination against homosexuals would be tolerated. Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., refused to sign the bill passed Thursday by the legislature until it mirrors the federal law passed in 1993.
What would constitute minor clarifications and what would represent their surrenders on religious freedom?
Staver, who authored Florida’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 1990s, said he has a simple litmus test.
“If they do anything, they’ve caved. There is nothing to clarify. If they can’t read my lips and understand religious freedom that’s been in these statutes for two-plus decades and that has been in case law since the beginning of our history, then they should not be worthy of any of our votes. Any so-called clarification is caving into the homosexual agenda,” said Staver, who believes Pence and Hutchinson are simply responding to political bullying.
“People are looking for a strong leader,” he said. “They’re not looking for wimps. They’re not looking for people who backpedal. They’re looking for people who are strong leaders. Pence needs to be a strong leader and not buckle. Hutchinson needs to be a strong leader. They need to stand up to these bullies.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Matthew Staver:
While Staver fears the governors may essentially surrender in the religious freedom fight, he’s more worried about what they may try to do to satisfy the homosexual rights movement.
“What I’m ultimately concerned about is Pence or Hutchinson or different governors elsewhere may now want to say, ‘Well, let’s go ahead and pass special protection for homosexuals.’ That’s what these homosexual activists are wanting,” said Staver, who added that the current protests are largely a mirage.
“They’re not wanting clarification,” he said. “They know [religious freedom laws] have never been used in the way they said. They can’t point you to a single case. What they want to intimidate the opposition so that you’ll react and then add into the statutes a special, protected, preferred status for homosexuality.”
Staver added, “If they get that, boy are they going to come and hammer you hard with it.”
He said there can never be a truce in this debate.
“These are two trains on the same track going in opposite directions,” Staver said. “There is a collision that is taking place. One will win and one will lose. There’s no navigating around this and there’s no coexistence because they will coexist. That’s why you’re starting to see this vitriol, this hatred, this intolerance becoming manifest that we knew was there all the time.”
He likens the standoff to the quest for Middle East peace.
“This is an intolerant agenda,” he said. “This is like dealing with terrorists, negotiating with people who simply have a zero-sum game and they don’t want you to exist.
“It’s like the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinians in Gaza don’t want the Jews to exist in the land. No matter how much land you give them for so-called peace, it doesn’t really satisfy them. There is no satisfying this radical agenda. They don’t want you to exist. If you do exist, they want you to promote and applaud their sinful lifestyle.”
As for the content of the new law in Indiana and the legislation passed in Arkansas, Staver said the most common complaints about what they would do are simply not true.
“They have this parade of horribles that is just simply untrue,” he said. “‘It’s going to allow someone not to serve a meal to an individual in a restaurant solely because they’re homosexual.’ Absolutely nonsense. ‘You’re going to be able to say to someone you can’t sleep in this hotel room and rent it just like anyone else. Why? Because you’re homosexual.’ Absolutely not true.”
So what would the laws do?
“What we have here is a religious freedom bill,” he said. “People of faith don’t want to be put in any situation where they’re coerced against their faith to support or affirm something. That’s been the historic basis for our freedom of religion from the very founding of this country.”
Staver said there is a rich legal history of these and other religious freedom statutes not being abused.
“There’s been litigation all over the country on a wide variety of issues from zoning to other kinds of issues involving religious freedom,” he said. “We’ve got a track record with these statutes of twenty-plus. They can’t point you to one case that supports their allegation that these are discriminatory.”
Staver also dismissed the litany of threatened boycotts of Indiana by companies and groups. In fact, he is cancelling his Angie’s List membership after the website slammed the Indiana law.
He said Angie’s List promises to refund 110 percent of the fees if a person cancels. He urges religious freedom supporters to cancel their memberships with Angie’s List and donate the money to an organization fighting for freedom and traditional marriage.
Staver said one of the great ironies in this debate is that the groups demanding tolerance are the least likely to practice it toward those who disagree with them.
“They use the word ‘tolerant,'” he said. “It’s absolutely intolerant. They do not want anything to coexist that does not affirm and promote their lifestyle of same-sex activity or same-sex unions.”
Thus far, some likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates have sided with the religious freedom laws, while others have largely stayed quiet. Staver said their words and actions in the face of fierce protest will be remembered by voters.
“I think we need to hold all of our elected or would-be elected politicians accountable,” he said. “This is a defining moment, and they should not, better not, flinch.”
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