Mike Pence on Gay Rights vs. Religious Freedom

From the site ProCon:


Mike Pence, JD, United States House Representative (R-IN), made the following comments during a Nov. 7, 2007 House floor speech opposing passage of “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act”:

“Let me be clear that I am not condoning discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society. The problem here is that by extending the reach of federal law to cover sexual orientation employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace. In effect… this sets up something of a Constitutional conflict between the right to religious freedom in the workplace and another person’s newly created right to sue you for practicing your faith or acknowledging your faith in the workplace.

Some examples under ENDA [The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] would mean employees around the country who possess religious beliefs that are opposed to homosexual behavior would be forced, in effect, to lay down their rights and convictions at the door. For example, if an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment because the homosexual employee objects to passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality.

We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience whether it be in the public square or in the workplace. I oppose the Employment Non Discrimination Act and urge my colleagues to do likewise.”

Nov. 7, 2009 – Mike Pence, JD 

So, Congressman–now Vice President–Mike Pence argued that extending the protection of federal law [ENDA, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will infringe upon the free practice of religion. For instance, if one employee keeps a Bible in her cubicle, a gay employee could claim that she was creating a hostile work environment.

Question: If I kept a copy of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason in my cubicle, could that religious employee claim that I was creating what for her was a hostile environment? If she could, would Pence also consider consider it a bad idea for federal law to protect against discrimination on the basis of religious belief? If federal non-discrimination law would permit a gay person to regard the presence of the Bible as creating a hostile environment, could not a religious person say the same thing about the presence of The Age of Reason? If the one claim is legitimate, then the other is; likewise, if one is absurd, so is the other. Or would Pence argue that she has a right to keep a Bible in her cubicle, but that I do not have a right to keep The Age of Reason in mine? On his view, does freedom of religion not extend to non-belief? If you are a non-believer who ardently wishes for the impeachment of Donald Trump, be careful what you wish for. You might go from the frying pan that is the boorish buffoon Trump to the fire that is the theocratic ideologue Pence.