No Need to Exaggerate the Michigan RFRA Law

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is likely to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the governor. It’s a bad bill based on bad theory, as all RFRAs are, but the hyperbole I’ve seen from my side of that dispute is reaching heights of absurdity. And it’s completely unnecessary.

Addicting Info’s headline declared Terrifying Law Turns Michigan Into a Theocracy. Other headlines declare that it would allow EMTs to refuse to treat gay patients and can just let them die. Seriously, people, calm the hell down and stop acting like the right wing with their ridiculous exaggerations and hyperbole. The Michigan bill, HB 5958, is identical to the same law at the federal level and to laws found in 19 other states. And as First Amendment expert Doug Laycock points out:

“It hasn’t happened anywhere else — not at the federal level or the 19 states that have these kinds of laws,” said Laycock, who graduated from Michigan State University and serves on the law school’s board of trustees. “The courts have generally held that preventing discrimination is a compelling government interest.”

Even in the Hobby Lobby ruling, the conservative majority opinion explicitly says that there is a compelling governmental interest in preventing discrimination. Ironically, this is virtually identical to the argument we hear from the Christian right about anti-discrimination legislation: “If we add gender identity and expression to the anti-discrimination laws, men will dress up as women to rape your daughter in the ladies room!” But guess what? That’s never happened in all of the states and cities that have had such laws for years, sometimes decades. Not once.

It’s still a bad law for a whole lot of reasons, as the Hobby Lobby ruling proves. But that doesn’t mean that every bad thing we can imagine is going to happen. We’ve got more than enough perfectly good reasons to oppose the bill. There’s no reason to engage in dystopic fantasies to do it.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • cptdoom

    The far bigger problem for LGBT citizens in MI is that there are no statewide protections against discrimination in the law, and an attempt to add them just died while the legislature raced to enshrine this shrine to religious privilege into their laws. With no federal protections, it is totally legal in much of Michigan (not sure how many localities have passed LGBT protections for their cities) to hang up a “no queers allowed.”

    As for the EMTs, even an anti-discrimination law may not protect you. DC had one back in 1995 when EMTs stopped treating Tyra Hunter, a trans woman, when they discovered she had some male anatomy and she later died. Sure her mother got a big settlement ($2,9 million, I believe), but lost her daughter, and the Fire/EMS service has failed, for the intervening 2 decades, to implement the court-ordered training to ensure such a thing never happens again.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    “Meh, using religion as an excuse to bypass law and civil rights is not big deal. Calm down. Relax. Now, here are some more stories about how the Christian RIght is trying to take over everything!”

    Make up your fucking mind, Brayton.

  • Artor

    Akira, Ed didn’t say it’s not a big deal. It clearly is. But there’s no need to get hysterical and lose sight of factual reality over it. That’s what wingnuts do.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Trust me, when the Christian Reich tries to use these laws and rulings to discriminate, the higher courts will declare them perfectly Kosher and legal (especially the 5 Cat-licks in the SCOTUS). Then we’ll discuss who’s being “hysterical” versus who has their libertarian heads up their asses in a cheap attempt to look “reasonable.” That is, if they haven’t put us on Death Row for treason and/or blasphemy.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Other headlines declare that it would allow EMTs to refuse to treat gay patients and can just let them die.

    You call that hysterical? That’s not really that far from what actually has happened. EMTs have refused to help trans people, and pharmacists have used “conscience clauses” and “religious freedom” as an excuse to refuse certain services to customers in need. Also, doctors have knowingly sat back and watched innocent women die in agony rather than give them life-saving abortions. RFRAs have already been used to enshrine personal religious law above the secular laws that are supposed to apply equally to everyone. And you’ve been reporting on that trend yourself, so it sounds pretty silly and ignorant for you to turn around and ridicule other people for sharing your own stated concerns.

  • Alverant

    Ed, do you think those pushing the RFRA laws have even considered what would happen if a non-christian used them? Even the SC Hobby Lobby case was framed to just apply to birth control pills and not to other beliefs. They effectively said that a stand against birth control is protected but other religious view points are not.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Akira MacKenzie,

    “Meh, using religion as an excuse to bypass law and civil rights is not big deal. Calm down. Relax. Now, here are some more stories about how the Christian RIght is trying to take over everything!”

    Make up your fucking mind, Brayton.

    It is completely consistent. If Brayton, in those other stories, gave the Christian Right a chance of succeeding in “taking over everything” (as opposed to simply mocking them as loonies) then you’d have a point. But he doesn’t. So you don’t. You can argue that Ed is wrong not to share some of these more extreme concerns, but he is not inconsistent. You missed the boat.

  • sinned34

    Trust me, when the Christian Reich tries to use these laws and rulings to discriminate, the higher courts will declare them perfectly Kosher and legal (especially the 5 Cat-licks in the SCOTUS). Then we’ll discuss who’s being “hysterical” versus who has their libertarian heads up their asses in a cheap attempt to look “reasonable.” That is, if they haven’t put us on Death Row for treason and/or blasphemy.

    Seriously, replace “Christian” and “Cat-lick” in that screed with “atheist” and it sounds like you could have ripped that right from from a Freeper comment page. Thank you for providing a perfect example of what Ed was talking about.