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Given the furor that’s erupted, you’d think Indiana was the first state – not the 20th — to pass a law to protect freedom of conscience.

The Indiana law would permit discrimination against gays, said Apple CEO Tim Cook in the Washington Post. Singer Miley Cyrus and actor Ashton Kutcher said much the same thing, more crudely.

Apple "will never tolerate discrimination," Mr. Cook said. Apple does business in 4 of the 10 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death; builds many of its products in China, where Christians are persecuted. But Mr. Cook is by no means the only hypocrite among critics of Indiana’s law:

Illinois passed its RFRA in 1998. State Sen. Barack Obama voted for it.

He’ll prohibit state sponsored travel to Indiana, said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. Connecticut passed its own, somewhat stronger version of the RFRA in 1993.

"The anti-Indiana backlash is a perfect storm of hysteria and legal ignorance, supercharged by the particularly censorious self-righteousness of the Left," said National Review Editor Rich Lowry.

Indiana’s law, like those in the other 19 states, mimics the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Congress approved nearly unanimously.

States passed their own because the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 the federal RFRA was generally inapplicable against state and local laws.

The federal RFRA was prompted by a 1990 Supreme Court ruling against Native Americans who were fired after ingesting peyote in a religious ritual, noted Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University who supports gay marriage, laws forbidding discrimination against gays – and RFRAs.

"We should be wary of using the coercive powers of government to compel our fellow citizens to participate in rites that violate their religious beliefs," Prof. Prothero said. "We would not force a Jewish baker to make sacramental bread for a Catholic Mass. Why would we force a fundamentalist baker to make a cake for a gay wedding?"

RFRAs are about accommodating religious belief, not authorizing discrimination, said Washington Post blogger Jonathan Adler, who teaches law at Case Western Reserve University.

Indiana’s law "merely requires that state laws meet a demanding, but hardly insurmountable, test before infringing upon the religious practice or conscience of religious believers," Prof. Adler said.

Essentially all the laws do is permit people to argue in court a law imposes an excessive burden on the practice of their religious beliefs. Judges may – or may not – accept that argument.

"RFRA doesn’t stop government from limiting religious freedom," said Tobin Grant of the Religion News Service. "It simply states that government can’t do it if there is a less restrictive way to accomplish the same goal."

There has yet to be a single instance in which someone used an RFRA to get around civil rights laws.

Conservatives aren’t trying to circumscribe the rights of gays, blacks, or anyone else. The left – which no longer pretends to support pluralism and tolerance – is trying to suppress traditional religious belief. They’re fascists, not "liberals."

 "We shouldn’t hold Ashton Kutcher and Miley Cyrus entirely responsible" for their abysmal ignorance of the law, its purpose, and its history, said John McCormack of the Weekly Standard. "Their job, after all, is to make bad music and bad movies, not report the news."  But journalists have no excuse.

Neither do President Obama, who has to remember voting for Illinois’ RFRA; or Hillary Clinton, who must recall the moving speech her husband made when he signed the federal law.

This manufactured controversy indicates the Democrat Party today is comprised chiefly of a few utterly dishonest people at the top, who cynically manipulate a larger bunch of arrogant ignoramuses.

Most younger Americans have no clue why the First Amendment forbids an "Establishment of Religion;" don’t know the liberties they enjoy are derived from the long struggle for freedom of conscience, because our schools have all but abandoned teaching history and civics.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be," Thomas Jefferson observed.

Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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