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:
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 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.”
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.