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In NYT Op-ed, Bobby Jindal Defends Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bill

In NYT Op-ed, Bobby Jindal Defends Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bill


The Louisiana governor and possible presidential candidate says corporate 'bullying' led to changes in such laws in Indiana and Arkansas.

While the governors of Indiana and Arkansas agreed to amend "religious freedom" laws that could have led to antigay discrimination, Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal is standing firmly behind similar legislation proposed in his state.

"In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty," Jindal, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, writes in a New York Times op-ed published today. "It was disappointing to see conservative leaders so hastily retreat on legislation that would simply allow for an individual or business to claim a right to free exercise of religion in a court of law."

Jindal claims that Louisiana's proposed Marriage and Conscience Act, which would prevent the state from penalizing a business, nonprofit group, or individual for expressing a deeply held religious or moral view about marriage, "does not, as opponents assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians." But he argues for the bill by saying, "Why shouldn't an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?"

He also says, "The bill does not change anything as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it."

Indeed, Louisiana has no statewide prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations -- which would cover business-customer transactions -- or employment or any other realm. A few cities in the state, including New Orleans and Shreveport, have such laws.

Jindal calls for religious conservatives and business leaders "to unite in this debate." He disdains business activism against religious objections laws, saying, "The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence. The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly. The fight against this misguided, government-dictating ideology is one fight, not two. Conservative leaders cannot sit idly by and allow large corporations to rip our coalition in half."

Jindal's column comes at a time when some other Republican presidential aspirants, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, are trying to have it both ways on marriage equality, and even staunch equality opponent Sen. Ted Cruz has been courting gay donors.

The op-ed indicates that Jindal is "establishing a clear line between gay rights and Republicanism," writes Jarvis DeBerry in a column for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. "His point is obvious: These corporations wouldn't be taking such a wild and crazy position if they were really controlled by conservatives," DeBerry writes. "Ergo, Big Business must have been taken over by liberals. Just like, you know, the Muslims have taken over so much of Europe. There are multiple problems with Jindal's argument, among them the idea that it is wrong for activists who've suffered defeat at the ballot box to put pressure on business interests."

In Salon, Katie McDonough notes, "Jindal's bigotry is not new, but the timing of his corporate tough talk is interesting for a few reasons, and not just because he is rumored to be angling for a 2016 presidential run. Jindal's editorial was published less than two weeks after he told state legislators that he wanted to rein in 'corporate welfare' by going after certain refundable tax credits. ... So Jindal's big ask of these corporations is that they stand shoulder to shoulder with him in discriminating against LGBTQ people at the same time he is threatening to target (even if minimally) their tax goodies."

Meanwhile, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin edited Jindal's op-ed:

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