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Religious Tolerance logo

State religious freedom to discriminate laws

Part 3: 2015-MAR: Indiana:
Reactions to the state RFRA law.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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Reactions to the RFRA bill by sports figures, the media, organizations, politicians and a religious denomination:

  • A number of individuals, including football player Pat McAfee, novelist John Green, and TV personality Montel Williams expressed their opposition to the act.

  • Eliana Dockterman, writing for Time Magazine, said:

    "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that allows business owners to deny same-sex couples service on religious grounds, then quickly defended it.

    Within hours, Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei took his outrage to Twitter using the hashtag #BoycottIndiana, which began trending.

    Democratic lawmakers, LGBT rights activists and civil liberties groups have argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizes discrimination. And other celebrities aside from Takei have questioned Pence’s decision to sign the bill. On Monday, Jason Collins -- the first openly gay NBA player -- tweeted at the Governor, asking him if he will be discriminated against when he attends the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis next week." 1

  • Reggie Miller, an NBA star, tweeted:

    I've never been big into politics but I'm very dissapointed in my adopted home state of Indiana and the passing of Senate Bill 101. ... I've always been about including for all, no matter your skin color, gender or sexual preference. We are all the same people, beautiful creatures." 2

  • Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a 4 billion dollar corporation, said that his company was cancelling its plans to expand into Indiana:

    "Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination." 3

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  • Dan Wetzen, writing for Yahoo! Sports said:

    "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says the 'Religious Freedom' bill he signed into law Thursday [MAR-26] isn't about turning back the clock to old-time bigotry where you could refuse service to blacks at restaurants, set up drinking fountains for whites only or post a job opening alongside a sign with NINA painted on it – (No Irish Need Apply).

    The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, responded with what most clear-minded people believe: that this law is about the state of Indiana protecting discrimination, effectively allowing businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. As such, Emmert, whose organization is hosting the Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis where the NCAA is also headquartered, went far enough to threaten future events in the state and potentially moving their offices out of downtown Indianapolis.

    'The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,' NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement issued immediately after Pence signed the law. 'We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.'

    'We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,' the statement continued. 'Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce'." 4

  • Gen Con, the computer gamer convention, has a contract with the Indiana Convention Center. They are considering transferring their convention to another state when the contract ends in 2020.

  • The Christian denomination, the Disciples of Christ, is threatening to hold its annual convention in another state.
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis (Anglican) posted a pastoral letter to the clergy and people of the Episcopal Church (USA) Diocese of Indianapolis. It said:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    "You know by now that the Indiana State Assembly has passed a measure called The Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill purports to protect persons and businesses from government reprisal if their decisions to treat groups of people differently (in the provision of services and goods, for example) stem from what they claim to be religious beliefs – even if those beliefs are not part of the formally professed teaching of any established religious group.

    Proponents of the bill say it is not about discrimination. Discrimination, in its truest sense, is about drawing distinctions. To discriminate is to make considered decisions, and is not in itself either morally or ethically good or bad. But when decisions are being made about who will be entitled to what, and on what basis, the potential for discrimination to become a relational weapon in a culture and society is tremendous. None of us has to think hard to come up with examples in our own history as a nation.

    The language of the bill does not identify any specific group of people – either as needing protection for their beliefs, or as possible targets in decisions to withhold services or goods. What this means is that there is no legal boundary placed on who may decide to discriminate, or who may be discriminated against, so long as the 'decider' claims to be acting out of religious conviction. The possibilities for mischief are tremendous!

    Though the group most likely to be singled out in our thoughts is the LGBT community, it is clearly possible for many others to be told they are unacceptable to receive whatever services or goods a person or company has on offer. Consider the possibility that only Christians will be served in some places, only Jews in others, while no Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, or Druids can purchase merchandise in some stores, and only Latinos will be included here, only Blacks excluded there....you see the point. This legislation gives the appearance of tolerating and protecting overt bigotry in any form so long as it is dressed up as personal religious fervor.

    That this is terrible for business is already being made exquisitely plain. That it is an embarrassment to 'Hoosier Hospitality' is undeniable. It is also an affront to faithful people across the religious landscape. Provision of a legal way for some among us to choose to treat others with disdain and contempt is the worst possible use of the rule of law." 5

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  • Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D) said:

    "Although not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation. Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject." 6

  • Angie's List was planning to bring 1,000 jobs to Indiana but has held up the move "until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees."

  • Zach Adamson (D), a member of IIndianapolis’ City-County Council, said that the law has nothing to do with religious freedom but everything to do with discrimination. He said: "This isn’t 1950 Alabama, it’s 2015 Indiana." 7

  • Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a fundamentalist Christian group, complained about the negative reactions to the Indiana bill. He tweeted:

    "More evidence that Liberals are not for human rights, but special rights for some humans based upon their sexual behavior."

    There was a flurry of negative reactions to Perkins' tweet. 8

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Eliana Dockterman, "George Takei Asks Twitter Followers to #BoycottIndiana Over Religious Objections Law," Time Magazine, 3025-MAR-26, at: http://time.com/
  2. Reggie Miller, at: https://twitter.com/
  3. "Salesforce CEO Says Company Is ‘Canceling All Programs’ In Indiana Over LGBT Discrimination Fears," CBS San Francisco, 2015-MAR-26, at: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/
  4. Dan Wetzel, "NCAA's response to Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' law is perfect," Yahoo! Sports, 2015-MAR-26, at: http://sports.yahoo.com/
  5. Catherine M. Waynick, "A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Indianapolis," Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, 2015-MAR-26, at: http://indydio.org/
  6. Tony Cook, "Gov. Mike Pence signs 'religious freedom' bill in private," IndyStar, 2015-MAR-27, at: http://www.indystar.com/
  7. Rick Callahan, "Hundreds Rally Against Indiana’s Religious Objections Law," Time Magazine, 2015-MAR-28, at: http://time.com/
  8. "Tony Perkins on Twitter," Twitter, 2015-MAR, at: https://twitter.com/

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2015-MAR-28
Latest update: 2015-MAR-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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