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Religious Tolerance logo

State religious freedom to discriminate laws

Part 8: 2015-MAR-31. Indiana:
More comments on Indiana's original RFRA law.
Assessing where the truth lies.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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Remarks In favor of following the Golden Rule and not discriminating against the LGBT community:

  • Hillary Clinton tweeted:

    "Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn't discriminate against ppl bc of who they love."

  • White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticized Governor Pence (R) and others who suggest that the federal and Indiana RFRA laws are the same. He said:

    "That is not true. [The 1993 federal law] was an effort to protect the religious liberty of religious minorities based on actions that could be taken by the federal government. The Indiana law is much broader. It doesn't just apply to individuals or religious minorities. It applies to, and I'm quoting here, 'a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint stock company, or an unincorporated association.' So this obviously is a significant expansion of the law in terms of the way that it would apply. ... [T]his is a much more open-ended piece of legislation that could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love."

  • Former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarxenegger (R) said:

    "As an American, I'm incredibly concerned about what happened in Indiana this week and the threat of similar laws being passed in other states. As a Republican, I'm furious. Distracting, divisive laws like the one Indiana passed aren't just bad for the country, they're also bad for our party."

    He noted that recent voter registration data in California showed that votes registering as Repubilcans had dropped from 34% in 2007 to 28% in 2015.

    He continued:

    "That sharp drop started just after the divisive battle over Proposition 8. Maybe that's a coincidence, but there is no question that our party is losing touch with our voters, especially with the younger ones who are growing the registration rolls."

    Referring to the negative reaction towards Indiana's law from Walmart and many other corporations, sports groups, etc., he said:

    "Those businesses are doing the right thing, but they have also done the math. As a party, we need to take a similarly realistic look. What happened in Indiana should be a teachable moment for us." 4

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  • "Hoosiers For Harmony" promote a compromise in Indiana. They state that:

    "No one should ever be denied service, employment or accommodation because of his or her race, age, disability or sexual orientation.

    At the same time:

    • No Christian should ever be forced – under penalty of law – to be active participants in a ceremony that violates their fundamental religious principles;

    • No Jewish person should face discrimination for wearing a yarmulke in the workplace;

    • No Amish family should have their home confiscated because they built it themselves.

    That is why the RFRA was necessary.

    Because the RFRA was not enacted to facilitate discrimination against gays or any other groups.

    The RFRA was enacted to prevent discrimination against minority religious groups." 6

Webmaster's comment:

Whatever the intent of the original RFRA law in Indiana, one of its results would be protections for religious and individuals who whsh to practice "... discrimination against gays or any other groups." Whatever compromise is finally encoded into law there will still be an occasional conflict between:

  • Members of the LGBT community who want to hire a wedding photographer to photograph their wedding vs. a photographer who is unwilling to provide that service for religious reasons.

  • Members of the LGBT community who want to have a wedding cake prepared for their wedding, vs. a baker who is unwilling to bake a cake for a wedding with which they don't agree.

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Where does the truth lie? Are the federal and Indiana RFRAs identical, similar, or very different?

Domenico Montanaro, writing on the National Public Radio web site, went beyond merely reporting what various politicians have been saying. He studied and compared the texts of the federal and Indiana RFRAs.

He found two sections of the federal and Indiana RFRA law to be essentially identical: 1

On the government limiting a person's exercise of their religious beliefs:

  • The Federal RFRA states that the federal "Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. ..." 2

    The Indiana law states, "A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." 3

On exceptions to the above rules:

  • The Federal RFRA states that the federal government can restrict a person's exercise if religions if it: "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." 2

  • The Indiana law also states an exception, : if its: "(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." 3

Thus, as one example, the Federal and State RFRAs both prohibit the corresponding government from restricting a person's "exercise of religion." One example could be to for the government to require a person to associate with others if the person felt that this action would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. For example, if a Roman Catholic sincerely believes, because of their religious faith, that divorce is immoral and should be illegal, then governments could not require the Catholic to associate with a divorced person or couple in any way. If a fundamentalist Christian feels that interfaith marriages should be banned, the government cannot require them to associate with a person or a couple in an interfaith marriage. An evangelical Christian might believe that their religious faith teaches them that a person who engages in same-gender sexual behavior is committing an profoundly immoral act. They might cite what the Bible says in Leviticus 20 is deserving of death. They might not want to associate with such a person. The government cannot make them.

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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. Domenico Montanaro, "Indiana Law: Sorting Fact From Fiction From Politics," National Public Radio at: http://www.npr.org/
  2. Text of the federal RFRA, HR 1308, Federal Government, 1993, at: http://www.gpo.gov/
  3. "Senate Enrolled Act #101," Indiana General Assembly, 2015, at: https://iga.in.gov/
  4. Mollie Reilly, "Arnold Schwarzenegger 'Furious' Over GOP Support For Indiana Religious Freedom Law," Huffington Post, 2015-APR-03, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  5. Ryan T. Anderson, "Indiana’s RFRA Fix Equivalent to Wholesale Repeal; RFRA Needs No ‘Fix’," CNSNEWS, 2015-APR-03, at: http://cnsnews.com/
  6. "About," Hoosiers for Harmony, undated, at: http://hoosiersforharmony.com/

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2015-MAR-28
Latest update: 2015-APR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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