Gov. Bobby Jindal compared a Louisiana religious protection law passed in 2010 favorably to two pieces of legislation that have caused tremendous controversy in Indiana and Arkansas in recent days.
Speaking on a few conservative talk radio programs today, Jindal said he is proud that Louisiana has its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law he characterized as being similar to the initial proposals that drew opposition in Indiana and Arkansas.
“We are not for discriminating against anybody, but we are saying it is not right for the government to force business owners to choose between their faiths and their livelihoods,” Jindal said in a radio appearance with Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana House member who runs a conservative Christian advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Jindal described the laws in question as a way to protect religious business owners who might not want to serve same-sex couples because of their personal beliefs. But opponents have said the legislation in Indiana and Arkansas would sanction discrimination against the LGBT community.
Facing significant backlash from the business community, the Republican governors of Indiana and Arkansas called for changes to the religious protection measures in their states that Jindal has praised. Legislatures in both states passed bills Thursday (April 2) aimed at quieting the national uproar over them.
The corporate community, including Wal-Mart, voiced opposition to the religious freedom legislation. Sports organizations, like the NCAA and the NFL, have also made it clear that such laws could deter them from hosting major events in certain states.
Jindal had harsh words for those businesses who called for amendments to the religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas.
“By the way, you see the hypocrisy of some of these business leaders. They’re out there — some of these business leaders that are criticizing these lawmakers, criticizing these states — some of these same business leaders are out there making money and selling their products in countries that treat women as second-class citizens,” Jindal said on Perkins’ radio show.
Experts say Louisiana’s religious freedom act is not nearly as expansive as those that recently fell under scrutiny in Indiana and Arkansas, though Jindal lumped all three laws together in his radio appearances. It’s not clear that Louisiana’s law would cause some of the same controversy over the treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In fact, a Louisiana legislator — who is also a conservative Christian advocate — is contemplating a bill to provide extra protections to religious business owners who might not agree with same-sex marriage. The legislation would prohibit the Louisiana government from denying a license, organizational papers and permits to a business based on the owners’ interpretation of marriage, according to state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City.
Jindal stopped short of saying he would support the bill, but he did offer some positive comments about the concept behind the legislation.
“We are always interested in supporting bills that strengthen religious liberty protections in Louisiana,” said Shannon Bates Dirmann, Jindal’s spokeswoman, in a written statement.
The governor did give himself credit for predicting in his speech at the presidential library of Ronald Reagan in 2014 that a large fight over religious freedom would soon brew in the United States.
“I did see this conflict coming. It is a fundamental issue for our society,” Jindal told Perkins in his radio appearance.
Jindal is likely to run for president in 2016. He will spend Good Friday in Iowa, with “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson at a prayer breakfast. When asked if he thought same-sex marriage would be an issue for Republican presidential candidates in the next election cycle, Jindal indicated it would.
“We don’t need to be cheaper Democrats,” he said on Perkins radio show.
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Julia O’Donoghue is a state politics reporter based in Baton Rouge. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jsodonoghue. Please consider following us on Facebook at NOLA.com and NOLA.com-Baton Rouge.
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