Pence discusses Jan. 6, RFRA fallout at Indianapolis book signing

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Former Vice President Mike Pence (IL file photo)

Former Vice President Mike Pence brought his national book tour to his home state Tuesday night, telling a crowd in Indianapolis about his Christian faith journey, the fallout from Indiana’s passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and his decision to defy former President Donald Trump’s call to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The former Indiana governor stopped for a book-signing and speaking event at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center one week after the release of his autobiography, “So Help Me God,” which has brought him much media attention and intensified speculation about whether he’ll run for president in 2024.

Pence briefly suggested that he and his wife, Karen, are considering their future, a comment that came during a question-and-answer session moderated by former Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Murphy and attended by about 300 paying patrons.

“Whatever the future holds for Karen and me, we’re going to have border security,” Pence said, while declaring the Trump-Pence administration reduced illegal immigration by 90%. “We can secure our border.”

The comment arose while Pence explained his history on immigration policy.

Pence said that while he was a congressman in 2006, he was invited to the White House by the Bush administration to discuss his immigration plan, which included a provision that would have offered a chance for people who had come to the country illegally to obtain legal status.

When Bush asked Pence about why he was interested in immigration given that Indiana was not a border state, Pence said he invoked his grandfather, Richard Michael Cauley, who arrived in the U.S. from Ireland via Ellis Island in 1923.

Pence also addressed the backlash he faced as Indiana governor after he signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, in 2015, which opponents claimed could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ groups. Organizations such as the NCAA, Apple, Salesforce and other companies came out against the law, as did then-Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, who called on state lawmakers to repeal the law or add explicit protections for LGBTQ groups.

As the state’s reputation suffered and pressure from the business community continued to mount, Pence said he felt compelled to ask legislators to amend the law to include those protections — despite his strong belief in the freedom of religious institutions.

“Things that were being said about Indiana were unacceptable, and so we went to the Legislature and said, ‘Let’s clarify that nothing in this legislation authorizes discrimination against anyone,” Pence said.

He went on to say, “I believe that marriage was ordained by God. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, but I also believe that you love your neighbor as yourself, and to know our families, I can tell you we treat everybody with respect, whether we agree with people’s views or values or not.”

Unlike many Republicans campaigning for public office during the midterms, Pence has not shied away from the issue of abortion. When asked if the fall of Roe v. Wade was his greatest impact, Pence said he will always “cherish” being part of an administration that saw the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who voted to return the issue of abortion policy to the states.

He also indicated that anti-abortion groups had more work to do to advance their cause.

“I think it’s time for us to redouble our efforts to support the unborn, to support women in crisis pregnancies and to support newborns in America,” Pence said.

In his autobiography, Pence recounts his final tumultuous weeks in office, from Trump frantically seeking evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election to the deadly riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The former Hoosier governor, who has called Jan. 6 “a tragic day,” said his decision to defy Trump was driven by his belief in the U.S. Constitution.

“I made it very clear to the president over and over in the days leading up that I did not have the authority to reject or return electoral votes,” Pence said. “There’s probably no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the president.”

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