Christian Right Freaks Out About Indiana RFRA ‘Fix’

As I’ve pointed out, the “fix” or “clarification” that was appended to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act does virtually nothing of substance. It does not prevent anti-gay discrimination in the least. But the Christian right is absolutely losing their minds over it anyway.

“Nothing in this law would enable a small business to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of a public accommodation, goods, etc.,” said Americans for Truth About Homosexuality President Peter LaBarbera, reading in part from the proposed changes before they were signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Thursday evening.

“It looks like it would preclude a small business owner from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” he said.

LaBarbera is really good at whipping up hysteria. Thinking, on the other hand, is well beyond his grasp. No, it does not preclude a small business owner from using RFRA, it just prevents them from using RFRA as a legal defense for discrimination. But since they never needed RFRA to discriminate against gay people anyway (except where there is a local anti-discrimination ordinance), they can continue to engage in such discrimination all they want. Nothing was ever stopping them from doing so in the first place.

“The actions taken by the Indiana General Assembly do not clarify our Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s purposes or goals. Our legal advisers tell us that it actually changes our law in a way that could now erode religious freedom across Indiana. If this revised law does not adequately protect religious liberty for all, it is not really a religious freedom act,” said AFA of Indiana Executive Director Micah Clark in a statement.

Then your legal advisers are either stupid or dishonest. As I’ve said a thousand times, it changes nothing in terms of anti-gay discrimination. And with or without this “clarification,” if a business owner had tried to use the law to defend any other form of discrimination (race, gender, religion, etc), the courts would never have allowed that. So again, it changes virtually nothing.

“Let’s take the example of the wedding cake baker,” he said. “They have a wedding cake. They sell wedding cakes to everybody, including homosexuals, but they don’t want to make, create or use their talents to create a gay marriage wedding cake. So if someone comes in and says, ‘I would like a gay marriage wedding cake,’ according to this language, they would not be able to deny that service.

“That’s the exact opposite of religious freedom,” he said, noting there would still be protections for houses of worship and nonprofit organizations.

Wrong. That baker can go right ahead and refuse to bake cakes for the wedding, just as they have always been able to do (unless there’s a local ordinance to the contrary — do I really need to keep adding that obvious caveat? Apparently I do) in Indiana. But keep freaking out about it all you want. I enjoy watching it.

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  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    “the Christian right is absolutely losing their minds over it anyway.”

    Don’t you have to have something before you can lose it?

  • themadtapper

    These RFRAs at the state level are all hilariously counter-productive. As you’ve stated, this one didn’t actually add any extra “right to discriminate”, since that was already the case. It was done to 1) throw some red meat to the Jesus voters and 2) serve as a preemptive measure so that future attempts to increase LGBT protections would have more hurdles to go over. But the Jesus voters don’t really need anymore red meat, and a majority of US citizens and businesses oppose LGBT discrimination. So now to address the PR problem and assure the public that they don’t really support LGBT discrimination (spoiler: they still do), they tack on a non-discrimination clause that they know doesn’t really do anything to the current status quo. But then their base has to throw a shit-fit over it because, despite all the claims to the contrary, they really do want to discriminate against LGBTs and are too stupid to just keep their mouths shut and play under the current rules that already favor them. So their bill to score points with the Jesus voters backfires due to massive opposition from everyone else, and then their PR attempts to distance themselves from blatant discrimination backfires due to opposition from their Jesus voters. They’re trying to walk an iced-over tightrope while blindfolded and wearing buttered shoes, over a crowd with rainbow-colored pitchforks on the left side and burning crosses on the right. Ringling Brothers couldn’t put together a better show.

  • cptdoom

    They have a wedding cake. They sell wedding cakes to everybody, including homosexuals, but they don’t want to make, create or use their talents to create a gay marriage wedding cake.

    Um the only difference between a wedding cake for a gay wedding and a straight one is the damn cake topper, and I really don’t think putting a figurine on the top of a cake is a violation of a religious belief. Oh, and if the bakery won’t sell a cake for a gay wedding, then they won’t really sell to everybody, will they? Although I am so happy to learn they’ll allow a dirty homo to pick up the cake for a straight wedding.

  • eric

    IANAL and I’m just guessing about this, but I tend to think the caveat will make a quantitative difference if not a qualitative one. As you say, discrimination based on orientation will still be legal where its legal and illegal where there’s a law against it. But suits over discrimination in places where it is illegal likely won’t last as long or cost as much money because the defendants won’t have this to cite and the court will not have to consider it as relevant. Same in-court result with or without the caveat, but with it the cases may be shorter and cheaper for gay plaintiffs.

    I also expect that the caveat may have a secondary effect in terms of more people suing or being willing to sue over discrimination than without it. Not everyone is an expert legal scholar; if the caveat makes the difference in a turned-away patron not suing because they think Indy’s RFRA law protects the owner, or suing because they now understand that it doesn’t protect the owner, then the caveat has made a positive difference.

  • maddog1129

    Isn’t there an argument to be made, though, that the absence of a specifically named protection for LGBT people in a non discrimination ordinance or statute does not mean that people have a license to discriminate against LGBT customers?

  • D. C. Sessions

    But the Jesus voters don’t really need anymore red meat

    On the contrary, relatively content-free red meat (political empty calories) may be the only thing keeping the Jesus voters from causing serious mischief –such as voting out the less insane wingnuts.

  • gshelley

    Probably not, I think it is generally accepted that before the civil rights act, business owners had the right to discriminate based on race or religion and probably that before the Americans with disabilities Act, they could refuse service based on disability. There is probably a similar law protecting Veteran status

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Ed, I understand that there are local ordinances in several Indiana cities (e.g., Indianapolis and Bloomington, and perhaps others) that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. What do you think of the argument (which I’ve read in several places) that in its original form the RFRA could have been used to override these local ordinances, but that the “fix” effectively eliminates that possibility? Wouldn’t this make the “fix” a bigger deal than you’ve maintained, if only for those living in the more enlightened parts of the state?

  • http://ahcuah.wordpress.com/ ahcuah

    @Hercules. People in the comments keep pointing this out to Ed, and he keeps ignoring it. (Other commenters note that Ed says he doesn’t read the comments.)

    But if he cannot correct this, it makes one doubt the truth of all his posts.

  • StevoR

    I really like and will second what ‘Stonekettle Station’ blogger Jim Wright wrote on his fb page :

    “What would Jesus do?

    … (snip)

    Given Matthew 5-41: If someone forces you to walk a mile, walk two with them (alternately: if a soldier commands you to carry his gear for a mile, carry it for two miles).

    Therefore: If somebody asks you to bake a gay wedding cake for them, bake for them two…

    That plus see :

    http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/04/dear-christians-modest-proposal.html

    another great and well writ Jim Wright idea. PZ Myers may have no heroes – but I do.

  • busterggi

    So when are these fine Christain bakers going to start refusing to bake cakes for divorced persons, adulterers, persons who are not virgins even though single, people who eat bacon or other pork products or shellfish, wear mixed fabrics or stay home from church on the sabbth and watch football instead?

    Oh right, never. Its cafeteria time always in Christainland.

  • dingojack

    “If this revised law does not adequately protect religious liberty for all, it is not really a religious freedom act,” said AFA of Indiana Executive Director Micah Clark in a statement.”

    You really haven’t thought this all the way through, have you Micah?

    Dingo

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    (unless there’s a local ordinance to the contrary — do I really need to keep adding that obvious caveat? Apparently I do)

    Yep. Because while most of Indiana deserves the blame for allowing the bigotry, those places which have locally prohibited it deserve the credit for that; because one of the major changes the original law would have made was to override such local prohibitions; and because while adding the nuance makes for a more difficult story, most of your readers are likely to be able to follow it, and will find it less jarring than the inaccuracy of the simplification.

  • tomh

    @ #8

    “Wouldn’t this make the “fix” a bigger deal than you’ve maintained, if only for those living in the more enlightened parts of the state?”

    Exactly right. Since 28% of Indiana’s population is protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation by local ordinance, and the state-wide RFRA law would override these local ordinances, the fix is a very big deal. The local ordinances remain in place, everyone else can discriminate, it’s all just spinning of wheels. The whole issue does bring attention to the discrimination, though, which can’t be bad.

  • Childermass

    “Um the only difference between a wedding cake for a gay wedding and a straight one is the damn cake topper, and I really don’t think putting a figurine on the top of a cake is a violation of a religious belief.”

    I rather doubt we could legally force them to stock same-sex figurines. Luckily, unlike the cake, those can easily be shipped in from anywhere. A quick Google reveals that the figurines are easily found and inexpensive. Undoubtedly you get far better selection online as even a non-bigot is not likely to carry a wide selection as opposite-sex marriage is far more common. (And it very possible the local baker overcharges for his anyways.) Make them provide the cake and put on the figurine after it is delivered.

  • gshelley

    @ahcuah

    Ed has grudgingly ammended his language in the latest post he did on the subject, which is a big improvement, though it would have been nice if he could admit that his original wording was very poorly chosen and his statement that the clarification would make no difference at all simply wrong.

  • John Pieret

    In more good news, as a direct result of its opposition to the Indiana RFRA, the City Council of Muncie has passed a local ordinance adding sexual orientation and gender identity to race, religion, military standing or ethnicity as protected classes in its anti-discrimination law.

    http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2015/04/muncie-passes-rfra-resolution

    That’s another 70,316 people added to those in Indiana protected from anti-LGBT discrimination.

    The RFRA has been doing good work … just not the way its framers intended.