(CNSNews.com) - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) says his state has been hit by an "avalanche of intolerance" ever since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week.
"George, look, the issue here is, you know, is tolerance a two-way street or not?" Pence told ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
"I mean, you know, there's a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today having to do with people on the left. But here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that's been poured on our state is just outrageous."
Pence said the bill he signed is not about discrimination, nor is it about disputes between individuals unless government action is involved. He said the law is intended to empower individuals (as well as churches and businesses) when they believe the government is trampling on their religious freedom by requiring them to do things they oppose on religious grounds.
Critics say the new law will sanction discrimination against homosexuals.
"The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into federal law by President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago," Pence noted. "And it lays out a framework for ensuring that a very high level of scrutiny is given any time government action impinges on the religious liberty of any American."
Indiana is the 20th state to enact a law modeled after the federal legislation. Barack Obama voted for a similar law when he served in the Illinois State Senate.
Stephanopoulos asked Pence if the law will allow Christian florists who oppose same-sex marriage to refuse to serve homosexual couples, for example:
"George, the -- the question here is if the -- if there is a government action or a law that an individual believes impinges on their religious liberty, they have the opportunity to go to court, just as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Bill Clinton signed allowed them -- go to court and the court would evaluate the circumstance under the standards articulated in this Act.
"That's all it is. And when you see these headlines about -- about Indiana, a license to discriminate in Indiana and -- and -- it just -- I'm telling you, George, it is a red herring and I think it's deeply troubling to millions of Americans and -- and, frankly, people all across the state of Indiana who feel troubled about government overreach.
"This isn't about disputes between individuals, it's about government overreach. And I'm proud that Indiana stepped forward and I'm working -- I'm working hard to clarify this."
On Monday, Republican lawmakers in Indiana said they plan to add language to the state law to clarify that it doesn't allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But neither Pence nor those Republican lawmakers support the inclusion of language making homosexuals a protected class under the state's civil rights laws.