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Religious Tolerance logo

State religious freedom to discriminate laws

Part 7: 2015-MAR-31. Indiana:
Family Research Council circulates petition,
and comments further on state RFRA.
More Indiana RFRA developments.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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2015-MAR-31: The Family Research Council sends a petition:

The Family Research Council is a conservative Christian para-church organization. It has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of 13 U.S. anti-gay hate groups. 1

It is headed by Tony Perkins who sent a request to their mailing list asking recipients to sign a petition to Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R). He is under intense pressure from sports figures, sports groups, business groups, various companies, mayors, governors, civil rights groups and LGBT organizations to modify the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The original federal RFRA act protects believers from intrusions on their religious freedom by the federal government. However, the Indiana RFRA protects believers who own business and -- based on their religious beliefs -- want to discriminate against and refuse service to potential customers.

Not only is the intent of the state law inverted from the intent of the earlier federal law, but it encourages companies to violate the "Ethics of Reciprocity." These "ethics" are contained in the teachings of all major religions. In Christianity, the "ethic" is called the Golden Rule. The Bible records two statements by Yesua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) that require believers to treat others as they would wish others to treat them. Since nobody likes being discriminated against, this would imply that Christians and followers of other religions should not discriminate against the LGBT community.

His petition reads:

"Indiana Governor Mike Pence recently signed into law a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that protects people who live their daily lives according to their faith against government discrimination. This law reflects polling that shows 81% of Americans support the freedom to live out one's beliefs. The Indiana law is like the federal RFRA that was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and RFRAs in 19 other states.

Now, a leftist-driven movement has spread misinformation about the law, threatened boycotts and fomented false rhetoric in the media and online. Even in our day, the price of freedom is steep, and Governor Pence is standing strong for freedom despite the cost. Efforts are about to pressure Governor Pence to support changing or amending the law to weaken it. All Americans who live according to their religious beliefs should be free from fear of government punishment. I stand with Governor Pence in his support of religious freedom as stated in the Indiana RFRA, and urge him to oppose all efforts to change the law." 2

Webmaster's comment (bias alert)

I counted nine deceptive or invalid statements In his petition -- about one per sentence.

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2015-MAR-31: Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council comments further on RFRAs:

He issued a Washington Update report on the Indiana RFRA. He said:

"The reality is, if there weren't a hostility toward faith, there wouldn't be a need for RFRAs. As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other's differences. But, under the policies and influence of the Obama administration, religious intolerance, especially toward Christians, has grown significantly. The various states that have passed RFRAs are simply extending the same courtesy of tolerance to men and women of faith that the Left now enjoys." 3

Webmaster's angry comment (bias alert):

One could conceive of a civil rights supporter making a similar statement:

"The reality is, if there weren't a hostility toward racial minorities, the LGBT community, etc., there wouldn't be a need for human rights legislation. As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other's differences. But, under the policies and influence of some religious and social conservatives, religiously motivated intolerance, especially toward lesbians and gays, has grown significantly. The various states that have passed human rights laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, etc. are simply extending the same courtesy of tolerance to women and minorities that people of faith now enjoy."

Perkins is correct in that there is considerable intolerance towards some Christian believers. But it has little or nothing to do with their religious beliefs. It is directed at their religiously-motivated actions when they discriminate against and denigrate others -- particularly sexual minorities like the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual) community.

The core question does not deal with the traditional manifestations of religious freedom, which includes freedom of religious belief, speech, assembling with other believers, proselytizing etc. Rather it is whether people who set up businesses to sell good and services to the general public should be allowed to freely discriminate -- because of their religious beliefs -- against women and minorities with impunity. In a nutshell, it is whether a business should be able to place a sign on their window -- or express verbally to a potential customer -- that "We don't serve 'X'," where 'X' may be blacks, women, Jews, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, Hispanics, and/or other minorities.

The federal RFRA law has successfully limited intrusions by the federal government into individuals' religious freedom. The first state RFRAs laws were similar. However, the most recent crop of laws called by the same name of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are in fact licenses for businesses to discriminate against others with impunity. They can most accurately be described as anti-human rights legislation. Their primary role is to permit -- and perhaps even encourage --discrimination against women and minorities.

My personal opinion is that these "RFRAs" have been promoted so intensely at this time because of a general realization that same-sex marriage will probably be coming soon to all of the U.S. as it has to most predominately large English speaking countries. Those opposed to marriage equality realize that they are on the losing side. If they must live in a country where loving, committed same-sex couples can freely marry, then some are at least going to try to make it as difficult as possible for them to get married. In other words, they are going to throw the Golden Rule out the window, and seek the legal right to discriminate, humiliate, oppress, and denigrate others.

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2015-MAR-31: Further RFRA developments:

Indiana Governor Pence appeared on TV the previous night. He was asked specifically a half-dozen times whether his state's RFRA could lead to discrimination against the LGBT community. He showed great skill in avoiding to answer any of the questions directly or clearly. But he did say that there has:

"... been misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law."

He said he is seeking:

"... clarification [and a "fix" to the law with a revision] that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone."

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio -- who many commentators expect will announce his campaign for the Presidency in mid-April -- described his position on the RFRA act. He said:

"The issue we're talking about here is should someone who provides a professional service be punished by the law because they refused to provide that professional service to a ceremony that they believe is in violation of their faith? I think people have a right to live out their religious faith in their own lives."

This would seem to cover instances where, for example, a professional photographer refuses to take photographs at a same-sex wedding. But he still has not expressed his stand on other cases that do not involve professional services, like the owner of a wedding venue refusing to rent their facilities to an engaged same-sex couple, or a wedding cake baker refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couples planning their wedding.

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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. Evelyn Schlatter, "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, 2010-Winter Issue #140 of at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  2. "ALERT: TAKE ACTION," Family Research Council, 2015-MAR-30, sent to FRC's "Action Alerts Subscription" list.
  3. Tony Perkins, "Liberals Get Indy Way of Freedom," Family Research Council, 2015-MAR-31, at: http://www.frc.org/

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2015-MAR-28
Latest update: 2015-APR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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