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In California, Jeb Bush uses softer tone to back Indiana 'religious freedom' law

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush has been fully drawn into the debate over Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, and he softened his endorsement while fundraising in California on Wednesday.

Stressing he wasn’t criticizing Gov. Mike Pence, Bush nonetheless said a “consensus-oriented approach” would have been better. The change in tone, as detected in transcripts below, was first reported by the New York Times. The Bush team provided us with a transcript of the fundraiser.

Here is Bush on the Hugh Hewitt show on March 30:

HH: All right, now I’m going to go abroad in a moment, but first, I want to do a domestic political story. Earlier today, I watched Peter Hamby on CNN, which is on over your head, say that, and I want to quote him correctly, you don’t see a lot of Republicans rallying to Mike Pence’s defense right now. That’s a direct quote from Hamby. He’s a great reporter talking about the Indiana Religious Freedom Act. What do you make of the controversy? Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, great company, had a blast at it in the Washington Post yesterday. What do you think?

JB: I think if you, if they actually got briefed on the law that they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.

HH: You know, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It’s been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years. I do not know of a single incidence of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years.

JB: But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that based on her conscience, she couldn’t be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people was a friend of hers. And she was taken to court, and is still in court, or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there’s been some kind of discrimination. We’re going to need this. This is really an important value for our country to, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles, but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.

And here is Bush in California on April 1:

What I do believe—that protecting religious freedom is something that’s important and it has to be done state by state because the current federal law only applies to federal activities. The Supreme Court ruled that. So twenty states, twenty states have gone about this and by the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscious. That it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country and simultaneously with that we need to protect the rights of people—in this particular case the concern relates to sexual orientation but it could be anything. That there shouldn’t be—we should not have—we shouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation. So what the state of Indiana is going to end up doing is probably get to that place.

The better approach would have been the approach that is the more consensus-oriented approach I think. I’m not being critical of Mike Pence because I did say that I supported his efforts, which was the Utah case. Did you hear about the Utah case out of curiosity? It was two months ago it never made news. I think it was a similar kind of issue where you have these court cases now where people’s conscious are being sued for not participating in religious ceremonies and my personal belief is that that’s inappropriate.

And so Utah went about this, but what they did is they brought all the constituencies together and this included the leadership of the LDS Church and L{GBT} community  and said how can we forge a consensus where we can protect religious freedom and also create an environment where we’re not discriminating against people. And they figured it out and they passed a law. There wasn’t a bunch of yelling and screaming. That to me seems like a better approach to dealing with this. But I do fear that certain freedoms that historically have been part of our DNA as a country now are being challenged and I don’t think it’s appropriate.

I do think if you’re a florist and you don’t want to participate in the arrangement of a wedding, you shouldn’t have to be obliged to do that if it goes against your faith because you believe in traditional marriage. Likewise if someone walked into a flower shop as a gay couple and said I want to buy all these off the rack, these flowers, they should have every right to do it. That would be discrimination. But forcing someone to participate in a wedding is not discrimination; it is I think protecting the first amendment right.

There are, in the case of Indiana my guess is that the current law protects for because of the public accommodation issues that have been solved by the courts a long time ago, protects a couple but being clear about that is fine. It alleviates the concerns and I think that’s what the Indiana Legislature is doing right now.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times