Religious-Freedom Law Spotlights Pence

     INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — The religious-freedom law in Indiana backed by Donald Trump’s running mate is at a crossroads in the Hoosier State after a woman charged with child abuse has invoked it for her defense.
     Khin Thaing, 30, was charged after a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Indianapolis discovered severe bruises on Thiang’s 7-year-old son.
     That teacher discovered the injuries after the child flinched from being patted on his back, detectives said in charging documents.
     The affidavit for probable cause quotes Burmese-speaking Thaing as saying she hit the 7-year-old with a plastic clothes hanger after seeing him with his penis out standing behind his sister, who was bent over wearing a dress and no panties.
     A member of the Indiana Lautu Evangelical Church, Thaing says in her affidavit that she believed her “son was about to behave very badly,” so she disciplined him.
     “I was worried for my son’s salvation with God after he dies, and I did not want him ever again to commit a serious sin,” the affidavit says. “I decided to punish my son to prevent him from hurting my daughter and to help him learn how to behave as God would want him to.”
     Thaing said she fully believed in biblical teachings that taught that a parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child.”
     Her invocation of the Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act poses another wrinkle for the 2015 law seen as one of the biggest and most divisive accomplishments of Gov. Mike Pence.
     Originally written more broadly then the federal version of the law, the legislation promoted criticism that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBT community.
     The timing of the law also raised some red flags as it passed soon after same-sex couples won the right to marry.
     Outrage from local businesses and community members promoted lawmakers to amend the act with language to prevent the feared discrimination.
     Since its signing in March of 2015, the law has been used in a variety of different legal cases.
     The legally recognized “First Church of Cannabis” still has a pending lawsuit in Indiana regarding the group’s right to use marijuana as its sacrament during religious services.
     In addition, the Indiana branch of the ACLU, which opposed the original draft of the law, has used it to defend a Muslim inmate who was being served food that violated his religious diet, and against a law that prevented sex offenders from attending religious worship services that were near schools.
     Whatever Pence thought the law would or should be used for, he’s stayed silent on the recent scuttlebutt surrounding it, as his attention has turned toward the White House.
     According to an average of polls on Real Clear Politics, Trump’s pick for vice president sits at a 36.4 percent favorability rating. With two months to go before Election, he may need to convince people that he is the most stable part of the Trump-Pence ticket.
     Pence’s lukewarm polling numbers mirror the mixed but and generally unhappy result of the RFRA law.
     Mat Staver, founder and Chairman of the Liberty Council, a pro-religious freedom advocacy group, said in an interview that he doubted the religious-freedom law would help Thiang.
     Staver agreed that “spanking could be motivated by a religious conviction,” but after viewing a photograph from Thaing’s case, he wasn’t confident such protections would apply.
     “The photograph doesn’t look like reasonable corporal punishment,” Staver said.
     He added that “the law doesn’t need amendment.”

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