Gov. Jindal says states are key to religious freedom


SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Americans must fight at the state level to protect religious liberties threatened by the Obama administration, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in an address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

Kansas and Kentucky are the most recent states to pass such protective laws in the wake of the failed federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, but more states must follow suit, Jindal said in a Reagan Forum address Thursday (Feb. 13) in Simi Valley, Calif.

"We must enshrine in our state laws strong legal protections for churches, religious organizations and individual believers. No church or church-affiliated organization or individuals whose business is run in a manner consistent with their faith practices should be required by the state to take steps in conflict with their religion," Jindal said. "Nor should they be legally punished for how they treat marital arrangements outside the teachings of their faith."

Jindal made the remarks one week after President Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, asked Americans to pray for U.S. Christians imprisoned today, namely Saeed Abedini in Iran and Kenneth Bae in North Korea.

Citing the president's call for religious liberty in other countries, Jindal charged the Obama administration with waging war against religious liberty at home.

"The person who is at the tip of the spear prosecuting this quiet war on religious liberty spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The topic he chose to speak about was defending religious liberty," said Jindal, widely considered a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. "I was stunned, and I bet the president of Hobby Lobby, who was in the audience, was stunned as well. Yes, President Obama did wax eloquent, as he always does, about the horrors of religious persecution that are occurring beyond our borders. And good for him.

"Yet, it is stunning to hear the president talk of protecting religious liberty outside the United States while at the very same time his administration challenges and chips away at our religious liberty right here at home," Jindal said. "Once again, there is a Grand Canyon-sized difference between what this president says and what he does."

The birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the death of the Defense of Marriage Act threaten the freedom to exercise religion in the business arena, in churches and in all areas of life in the U.S., Jindal said.

States must enact laws to prevent these infringements, Jindal said, citing as a model the exemption that pharmacists enjoy in avoiding filling controversial prescriptions.

"The treatment of pharmacists is a good example of a broadly accepted accommodation, which ought to be spread to other career tracks. Many religious believers who work as pharmacists feel uncomfortable filling prescriptions for birth control and abortifacients," Jindal said. "As a society, we've accepted that the pharmacist can pass off your account to another colleague so he isn't the one who fills the order. That's what a healthy society protects and tolerance requires.

"We must expand that protection to other areas of work and protect the rights of believers to practice their faith in all arenas of work," he said.

The Obama administration is working to redefine religious freedom as solely a right to worship, Jindal said, contrary to Christianity.

"In this misbegotten and un-American conception of religious liberty, your rights begin and end in the pew. For those of us who believe in the Great Commission, we know how silly this idea is," Jindal said. "The president suggests that the right to worship and the right to evangelize and freely practice our faith are the same thing. They're not, and they're not what the First Amendment clearly protects: the freedom to practice our faith and protect our conscience, even if those activities don't happen to occur inside the four walls of a church building."

This is a cause that transcends religious denominations and beliefs, said Jindal, a Catholic born in the U.S. to Hindu parents.

"While I am best described as an evangelical Catholic, my extended family is quite diverse when it comes to matters of faith. And our liberties in America demand equal protections for all," Jindal said. "I am a Catholic Christian. My parents are Hindus. I am blessed to know Baptists, Jews, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and so many more in the rich tapestry of American faiths. And I know men and women who acknowledge no denomination or creed, confess to uncertainty about the divine, yet look to the richness of nature and the majesty of this world -- and wonder, and inwardly seek, the Author of it all."

Jindal described the battle against religious liberty as a war against many causes and statutes essential to American democracy, including "the propositions in the Declaration of Independence," "the spirit that motivated abolitionism," "the faith that motivated the Civil Rights struggle," "the soul of countless acts of charity," "the conscience that drives social change" and "the heart that binds our neighborhoods together."

Video: Gov. Jindal closing remarks to Reagan Library on religious liberty