WASHINGTON (RNS) Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence told conservative radio show host James Dobson that he and running mate Donald Trump will defend the right to religious objections if they win the White House.
“I don’t believe in discrimination or mistreatment of anyone; I believe that we should love our neighbor as ourself,” the Indiana governor told Dobson on the broadcaster’s “Family Talk” show that began airing Wednesday (Oct. 5), hours after the only vice presidential debate of the election season.
“But neither do I think that anyone should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Many conservative Christians are still upset that in 2015 the Indiana governor backtracked under pressure after signing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in his state that critics said would allow discrimination against gays.
Pence’s comment on Dobson’s show came after the host, in the prerecorded interview, noted that he had not seen anything on the Trump campaign website about religious freedom.
However, the site includes a line about Trump’s vision that states the successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will “(p)rotect and defend freedom of religion, speech, press and right to bear arms.”
Dobson also asked Pence about other hot-button issues for conservative Christians — namely the Obama administration’s memo to schools requiring them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice and the government mandate requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception.
“Washington, D.C., has no business imposing its will or its values on communities around the nation,” said Pence.
He also said that Trump is “absolutely committed to appointing justices to the Supreme Court and all of our courts in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia, people that will strictly construe the Constitution of the United States.”
Dobson opened and closed the 26-minute broadcast by noting that Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine was invited but was not able to join the program.
At the vice presidential debate in Farmville, Va., Pence said Kaine holds “pro-life views personally” but had suppressed Catholic teaching to support Hillary Clinton’s stance on abortion.
“But the very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me,” Pence said.
Kaine countered that faith should not influence government policy and reminded viewers that Donald Trump had said that “women should be punished … for making the decision to have an abortion.”