Religious freedom law being used as political wedge?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 1, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, R - AK: I was for a RFRA that mirrors federal law and is similar to what has been passed in 20 some other states. Now, obviously there are some variations there. I've asked that the leaders of the general assembly to recall the bill so that it can be amended. It might be perfect from some people's viewpoint, but I have preferred the federal standard on that, and that's what I've asked them to do.

There is clearly a generational gap on this issue. My son Seth signed a petition asking me, dad, the governor, to veto this bill.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says he wants lawmakers to keep working. He is he not going to sign the bill that they put on his desk, this is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that mirrors almost exactly Indiana's. Both of those are different than the federal act that was passed in 1993. But this is still causing all kinds of turmoil.

We're back with our panel. Laura, I mean, you have Walmart essentially pressuring Governor Hutchinson to not sign this bill.

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: These CEOs are just in a panic. And I had Carla Fiorina on my radio show today, and she said she was embarrassed by the frothy, frenzied panic of all these CEOs.

The people of the state, it seems to me, are in desire of having extra protection for religious speech. And I don't think they consider themselves bigots. They are not biased people. Gays, and lesbians and heterosexual people have been living in these states side by side, getting along for a long time.

I think the left has bit off more than it's going to be able to chew on this. I think the mainstream media thinks, oh, this is terrible for Republicans. Republicans are going to rue the day. Republicans were just minding their own business and this is being used as a political wedge. And they think it will help them in 2016. I do not think that is the case. I think Asa Hutchinson should have let this thing lie for a few days. Just breathe. It's going to be OK. I think the editors of National Review tonight had it exactly right. This is ridiculous.

BAIER: Both of these states are rewriting to match, I think Indiana is doing this, to match the federal law in 1993. They are both different, how they are structured. But the key thing here, Chuck, is that even if you have an egregious thing, something happens, they go to court. And there is a significant burden that the person who is saying he or she cannot provide a service has to get over in front of a judge. There is nothing automatic that happens. You still have to fight your battle in court.

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. In effect you get a defense to the charge of whatever the charge is, discrimination or whatever. I think, though, let's not kid ourselves. I think there clearly is -- these new laws at least are context of the inevitable, seemingly, decision by the Supreme Court mandating gay marriage nationwide, and people who object to that are scrambling for the kind of protection that they want.

The one word I agree with completely in what Laura said was just breathe. It would be nice if we could all just breathe and think about the following. Photographers, bakers, and florists generally need business. The people who are coming to them, the gay couples, let's say, have money and want to buy from them. That's a pretty strong incentive to cooperate.

And so you have to be either really bigoted, or really, sincerely religious to say no. It would be nice if we had a law that could somehow isolate those people who are extremely bigoted and somehow protect those people who are sincerely religious.

BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Wherever there are photographers, florists, and bakers, there is more than one of each. And, in fact, what kind of person wants their wedding photographed by, their wedding cake baked by someone who detests the ceremony they are compelled by the police power of the state to participate in? To the 19 states that have laws like this, add the 11 states whose constitutions have been construed to offer comparable protections. In those 30 states, never, not once, has anyone successfully used a religious exemption to get out of an anti-discrimination law. Never.

LANE: What I should have said was both of these groups, the extremely bigoted and the sincerely religious, are very small. There are going to be very few actual cases.

BAIER: The second group is probably larger.

INGRAHAM: I think there is a larger question here, which is are we going to really be happy to be in a country where tens of millions of Americans, maybe 150 million Americans, are made to feel that they're, you know, just like the KKK? Like, in other words, if you are a bible believing Christian, you're a faithful Muslim, you're an orthodox Jew, you are basically just considered by the elites as a member of the KKK, burning crosses on people's lawns if you believe in certain things that are not prevailing as the wisdom on the coast.

I think that's going to be a very unpleasant place to live. I think right now people are actually getting along fairly well on these issues until sort of people sort of agitate and say, oh, no, you must believe what I believe.

BAIER: What about the people, Laura, who say that the people who went too far were the lawmakers who structured this more broadly than the laws that were on the books?

INGRAHAM: Well, I mean, fine. All I can say, I think George is right. This is never successful. I mean, the idea that there is rampant discrimination and this is destroying lives -- I had a lesbian woman -- I'm promoting my radio show -- a lesbian woman from Indiana called in today. She said, you know something, there were a couple businesses, I don't think they seemed too happy to be having me as their customer. Guess what, I went other places. And Indiana is a great state to live. And I have had great -- she has been with the same woman 25 years. It's been a great place to live. This is much ado about nothing.

And I think there are good people on both sides of this. But I just think for people to start pushing people, you have to believe what I believe and you have to believe -- that's -- I think that's craziness.

BAIER: We will hear from more people online, SR Online right after this show. That's it for the panel, but stick around what you may have missed during our recent online show.

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