Changing Indiana: How RFRA got fixed

Changing Indiana: How RFRA got fixed May 14, 2015

The last time I wrote about religious liberty for this blog, I had been inspired to do so by many conversations with friends and coworkers, musing about how we might be able to take a few steps forward and, as progressives, rightfully claim this issue as our own.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence talking about RFRA
Courtesy IndyStar

About a month later, we watched the kerfuffle in Indiana unfold after it was shown the LGBT community could be legally discriminated against with this legislation. After passage by the Indiana Senate and House, Governor Mike Pence signed the RFRA (pronounced riff-ruh) into law on March 26, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

And then the craziest thing happened — the progressive movement, common sense and reason prevailed.

When the bill was signed into law, local leaders, multinational corporations, and the progressive coalition spoke out. Democrats demanded that it be repealed. Republicans were caught off guard and immediately realized that they needed to do some serious damage control.

Four days later, Governor Pence said he wanted the law “fixed” by the end of the week. And on April 2 an amended version was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.

So then, like a lot of folks (I think), I woke up the morning of April 3 thinking, what happened!? Now that the dust has settled, I feel comfortable providing a few points of analysis.

First, religious leaders spoke out, here and here and here. As I’ve said before, I cherish my personal religious freedom. I can worship where and how I want and that is a vital part of being an American. I am also called to respect the fundamental human dignity of all people, which means not discriminating on the basis of who someone is.

Second, the business community spoke out, hitting the Republican party where it hurts. Tim Cook from Apple said, rather unapologetically, “On behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges.” Couple this with statements from NASCARWalmart, and the NCAA about RFRA, Republican politicians were forced to admit that they had taken a step too far.

In the end, we witnessed an outpouring of respect, common sense, solidarity, and love for all our brothers and sisters. That, my friends, is something we don’t often get to say about the political process!

Moving forward, as other RFRA’s come down the pike (they will), we must be organized and prepared to take them on as we did in Indiana and Arkansas. But for now, cheers to a well-won victory.

Jessica Church is a faithful Democrat living and working in Washington, DC. You can reach Jessica on twitter at @j_r_church or by email at

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