Jindal's Reagan Library religious freedom salvo draws fire
Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose name has been mentioned as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, told an audience Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., that America's religious freedoms are under attack.
He contended President Barack Obama's National Prayer Breakfast remarks last week about religious liberty overseas stopped short of endorsing free exercise at home, saying, "if you like your religion, you can keep your religion."
According to a transcript of his speech, Jindal warned of a "silent war" on free exercise of faith and said, "This war on religious liberty — on your freedom to exercise your religion, on your freedom to associate, on your freedom of expression — is only going to continue. It is going to continue because of an idea, a wrongheaded concept, which President Obama apparently believes: that religious freedom means you have the freedom to worship, and that's all."
The topic isn't a new one for Jindal, 42, a Catholic who converted from Hinduism and has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Louisiana politics. In 2005, as a congressman from Louisiana, the Adventist Press Service, based in Switzerland, reported Jindal joined then-Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., along with Representatives Mark Souder, R-Ind., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in a Capitol Hill news conference supporting the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a measure that has languished in Congress.
Last December, Jindal was among political leaders who, The Washington Post reported, decried the suspension of "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson from the A&E television series over controversial remarks about homosexuality.
Jindal said, "I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended."
Even before the Reagan Library event, Jindal's speech drew barbs from the left when Politico published a story outlining his main points based on an advance text from the governor's office.
"Bobby Jindal Will Rally the Troops to Protect Religion from Gay People," declared The Atlantic's Wire website, where Philip Bump wrote, "This is one of those occasions in which replacing 'same-sex' with 'interracial' and 'gay' with 'black' is revelatory. If Southern racists in, say, Louisiana, had pointed to Biblical passages in defense of segregation, where would Jindal have come down on the issue? Was the elimination of Jim Crow also a 'silent war'?"
Both the Advocate and the New Orleans Times-Picayune picked up a statement from Democratic National Committee press secretary Michael Czin slamming Jindal: " "Tonight, Bobby Jindal ... will embrace President Reagan as a model for the Republican Party. He has even called the former President his 'political inspiration,'" the Czin statement said. "But the truth is Jindal's far right and out of touch Republican Party would have no place for someone like Ronald Reagan."
Some media outlets were more favorable to Jindal's approach. Newsmax, an online service that also has a print magazine, noted Jindal's concluding comments, in which the governor quoted remarks from President Obama at last week's National Prayer Breakfast: "History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people — including the freedom of religion — are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful," Jindal quoted Obama as saying, adding, "Well said Mr. President, I couldn’t agree more."
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