Theocracy in the heartland: The Indiana House has passed a controversial religious freedom bill that will allow anyone to ignore the law when it conflicts with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Republican-controlled Indiana House approved the draconian measure Monday on a 63-31 vote, largely along party lines. However, to be fair, five reasonable Republicans joined 26 Democrats in opposing the bill.
To make matters worse, Republican Gov. Mike Pence said he plans to sign the legislation when it lands on his desk.
The controversial legislation is meant to prevent the government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion. More to the point, the bill is an anti-gay measure sponsored by Christian conservatives in a despicable attempt to protect bigoted business owners who don’t want to provide services to same-sex couples.
However, the legislation is so poorly written and so sweeping in its language that it opens a Pandora’s box for people to ignore any law that conflicts with their “sincerely held religious belief.”
Theoretically, the law would allow restaurants to refuse to serve gay or interracial couples, hotels could refuse to provide lodging for Jews, landlords could refuse to rent to African Americans, pharmacies could refuse to dispense birth control to women, and employers could fire anyone, so long as such behavior was justified by “sincerely held religious belief.”
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow predicted the bill, if signed into law, will face multiple legal challenges, noting:
This ill-conceived legislation will more than likely bring a wave of lawsuits to Indiana. Yet the Indiana General Assembly and the Governor are ignoring broad opposition to this bill, including from businesses who know that it will send a troubling message about the inclusiveness of Indiana and have unacceptable implications for their employees. All Hoosiers deserve to be treated fairly, equally, and should have to play by the same set of rules as everyone else.
Observing the effect such legislation will have on the good name of Indiana, Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund executive director, said:
The truth is, this new law will undoubtedly damage Indiana’s reputation as a welcoming place. Instead, the state will now be viewed as completely out-of-step and a place where it isn’t good to live and do business. What these politicians are peddling as ‘religious liberty’ is not real religious liberty. This law is an out-right recipe for discrimination and persecution.
Currently, across the country there is a fierce legislative anti-gay backlash as conservative Christians respond to the sweeping success of marriage equality. At least 21 states now have laws restricting the rights of LGBT people.
Indiana’s religious freedom bill is a despicable measure that would make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population under the guise of religious freedom.
Such legislation is but a thinly veiled attempt by conservative Christian lawmakers to allow taxpayer money to support and enforce bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community and others they find undesirable. As such, it is emblematic of the dangerous and hateful nature of conservative Christianity in America.