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You are not allowed to read this post until you read Indiana SB 101, which was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week. Click here to read the PDF.
I’ve never seen anything like this.
Maybe it’s because my heart hurts for my Hoosier home, but I’m just a bit more sensitive on this one than I have been on others before.
More damage is coming from the backlash against this law than would ever come from RFRA itself.
Seriously? So we’re banning travel now?
It’s stuff like this that has me upset, I guess. I was talking to a friend yesterday about this whole thing, and I’m finding it really difficult to verbalize what I’m feeling.
I’m really more sad than anything. But I’m angry too, because of stuff like this.
Regardless of where the people of Indiana stand on this issue, they’re being hurt.
More damage is coming from the backlash against this law than would ever come from RFRA itself.
This is the general statement being made through the backlash:
“Indiana’s government legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community, so let’s discriminate against Indiana. The whole thing. Not just the people we disagree with.”
That makes sense… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Entire businesses and states are boycotting a state and taking their business elsewhere because religious people want the right to protect their consciences.
I get that this law was passed in a very controversial cultural climate, but look:
I want Muslim men to be able to keep their beards and Muslim children to be allowed to leave school for religious festivals or prayer time.
I want Native Americans to be able to ingest hallucinogens as part of a religious ritual.
I want Christian businesspeople to be exempt from providing services for events that violate their consciences.
I don’t support RFRA because I’m a bigoted discriminatory jerk who hates the LGBTQ community, I support RFRA because I want to protect the people above.
I’ve read a lot on this issue the past week. Here are some excerpts from articles I found helpful:
In order to clarify the law, the Indiana House Republicans have published an FAQ page about the RFRA act. We went to Western Michigan University – Cooley Law Professor Curt Benson, who has been teaching law for more than 14 years, to help us decode what is fact and what is fiction. He’s read the RFRA and is familiar with the federal statute and similar state laws around the country.
Indiana House Republicans: The only thing RFRA does is establish a judicial review standard state courts must follow when they consider cases where government action is alleged to substantially burden an individual’s exercise of religion.
This is true. The act creates a legal defense for someone accused of discrimination. It allows them to argue in a court of law that they are acting in a legal manner because of their religious beliefs.
Indiana House Republicans: RFRA protects the rights of everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.
“Accurate, but largely irrelevant,” Benson said. This is only going to come into play when someone is arguing that they have a specific religious belief in a discrimination dispute.
Tobin Grant on what makes Indiana’s passage of their RFRA law particularly controversial. He makes a good point—the cultural climate today is much different than it was when the federal RFRA was passed in 1993:
For years, RFRA was uncontroversial. Many states passed their own versions of RFRA after a 1997 ruling by U.S. Supreme Court that said the federal RFRA did not apply to state and local laws. Like the federal law, these state laws were passed with little opposition and with the support of a broad coalition that included civil rights groups and churches.
So what’s so controversial about Indiana’s RFRA? Timing.
Indiana enacted its law after the federal courts ruled that same-sex marriage was now legal in the Hoosier state. Indiana not only didn’t have same-sex marriage, it didn’t (and still doesn’t) have a law that protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Daniel O. Conkle, a law professor at Indiana University, supports same-sex marriage and discrimination protection based on sexual orientation. At the same time, he supports Indiana’s RFRA legislation. Why? How? He explains, and I think it’s helpful:
I am a supporter of gay rights, including same-sex marriage. But as an informed legal scholar, I also support the proposed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). How can this be?
It’s because — despite all the rhetoric — the bill has little to do with same-sex marriage and everything to do with religious freedom.
The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. This same test already governs federal law under the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. And some 30 states have adopted the same standard, either under state-law RFRAs or as a matter of state constitutional law.
Applying this test, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a Muslim prisoner was free to practice his faith by wearing a half-inch beard that posed no risk to prison security. Likewise, in a 2012 decision, a court ruled that the Pennsylvania RFRA protected the outreach ministry of a group of Philadelphia churches, ruling that the city could not bar them from feeding homeless individuals in the city parks.
Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and a supporter of same-sex marriage and gay rights, also supports Indiana’s RFRA legislation. His re-telling of a recent guest-lecturer is important, I think:
In a recent speech at Boston University, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock observed that America’s sexual revolution seems to be going the way of theFrench Revolution, in which religion and liberty cannot coexist. Today pro-choice and gay rights groups increasingly view conservative Christians as bigots hell bent on imposing their primitive beliefs on others.
Rather than viewing today’s culture wars as battles between light and darkness,Laycock sees them as principled disagreements. What one side views as “grave evils,” the other side views as “fundamental human rights.” What is needed if we want to preserve liberty in both religion and sexuality is a grand bargain in which the left would agree not to impose its secular morality on religious individuals while the right would agree not to impose its religious rules on society at large.
Any takers? Is it really necessary to pin a scarlet letter on those who believe the Bible prohibits gay marriage? Or might we learn to be satisfied with preserving liberty for ourselves without imposing our ideals (on sex or religion) on others?
Now, the previous two takes were from professors who support same-sex marriage but also support religious liberty at the same time. This next quote is from Dr. Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. Dr. Moore does not support same-sex marriage, but from our Christian perspective, his thoughts are always helpful:
The public debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law is (almost) enough to drive this Baptist to drink. The conversation has been the most uninformed and ignorant I’ve seen in years. This culminated in a panel on one of the Sunday talk shows suggesting that the law would return us to the days when signs would hang in stores detailing who would not be welcome to do business there.
The law, of course, does nothing of the sort. Indiana merely passed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the law that passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in 1993 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The act was supported by a coalition spanning from the far Left to the far Right.
RFRA, of course, does not grant anyone the right to “discriminate” or deny service to anyone else. All the law does is articulate that religious freedom is a factor to be weighed in making court decisions about the common good, that the government must show good cause in restricting someone’s free exercise of religion.
Ross Douthat‘s piece entitled “Questions for Indiana’s Critics” is helpful because I think it raises legitimate concerns for those of us who want to maintain religious liberty. His questions are worth considering. Below are the last couple and his concluding thoughts:
5) Should the state continue to recognize marriages performed by ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. who do not marry same-sex couples? Or should couples who marry before such a minister also be required to repeat the ceremony in front of a civil official who does not discriminate?
6) Should churches that decline to bless same-sex unions have their tax-exempt status withdrawn? Note that I’m not asking if it would be politically or constitutionally possible: If it were possible, should it be done?
7) In the light of contemporary debates about religious parenting and gay or transgender teenagers, should Wisconsin v. Yoder be revisited? What about Pierce v.Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary?
No doubt others could add more questions to the list, but that seems like decent range to me. Again, I’m genuinely interested in the answers, and not just for the sake of putting people on the record or playing some kind of “follow the logic” game. At the very least, I think liberals would benefit from recognizing that the current thinking of religious conservatives, in the RFRA debate and elsewhere, is shaped not only by these kind of specific fears but by a near-total uncertainty about what happens after this, and after that, and so on. And given how the ground has shifted recently, I think there would be real benefits for both sides to having more people on the left and center-left taking explicit positions on where we might and ought to go from here.
I hope this has been helpful. When it comes to the relationship of faith and politics/government, I tend to be pretty quiet, almost to a fault (or definitely to a fault, depending on who you ask). But the last week, my heart has just broken for Indiana, not because I disagree with people, but because there are real people affected by the hate being flung from either side.
Pray for the people of Indiana, especially those who find themselves unsure of what to think.
Pray also for those who are being discriminated against by corporations simply for living in Indiana.
How I grieve for my Indiana home.