The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” Is Now Law In Indiana: How Should We Respond?

The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” Is Now Law In Indiana: How Should We Respond? March 26, 2015

The governor of Indiana Mike Pence has signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and made it law in Indiana. While legal experts have argued that similar legislation in other states has yet to be used successfully to justify discrimination, many are still concerned.

My question at this stage is how progressive Christians and others concerned about social justice and equality should respond to the legislation, and perhaps protest it. For instance, if someone thinks that this legislation causes harm in ways that are against their religious beliefs, can they refuse to pay taxes that would fund the salary of a governor who would pass legislation like this?

The answer is “probably not,” just as it is unlikely that anyone could effectively use legislation like this to justify discrimination, since the case has already been made that the government has the right to protect people from discrimination even when the latter is purportedly justified by religion. The real problem with this legislation is that it puts the onus on the government to justify in each and every case that it has a justified reason for “burdening” the religious freedom not just of individuals, but of private corporations. And so, even if current laws ultimately protect victims of discrimination, the new legislation will probably at the very least lead to costly legal battles before those laws are upheld in a variety of specific cases.

Rabbi Sandy Sasso makes a comparison with the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany, and writes the following:

Of course, you will have every right to sue the paramedic in court for damages seeing that he refused to treat you because of the pro-gay marriage logo on your tee-shirt. Or the Muslim headscarf on your head.

In court, however, said paramedic will be able now to invoke RFRA in his defense. And the burden of proving in a court of law a “compelling governmental interest” of the paramedic providing treatment will be on you, a burden likely to be substantial both in monetary and opportunity cost. You might have some luck crossing the Red Sea, as it were, in front of a sympathetic, rational-minded judge. Just don’t wind up dead first.

What do we do now? Any suggestions?

RFRAMoreThanCupcakes-855x1024

Infographic from Freedom Indiana.

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  • Gary

    As an individual, I’d say do nothing.
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/25/politics/mike-pence-religious-freedom-bill-gay-rights/index.html

    Looks like the die is cast already. Group economic influence has already started. Eventually, the nut will be cracked. Although it might take awhile.

  • I don’t live in Indiana, but I live in Michigan which is right next door to the state. I greatly oppose the law and would like to see it abolished.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Don’t visit the state.

  • joshie

    The “similar legislation” talking point is a common one, but it’s misleading. This new generation of RFRAs generally has some key changes that the older ones don’t. For one, they included businesses as being people.

    A “person” in the Indiana version includes:

    A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation,a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that:(A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by:(i) an individual; or(ii) the individuals;who have control and substantial ownership of the entity,regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.

    Also, it goes beyond mere government intrusion:

    Sec. 9. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person’s invocation of this chapter.

    Not all RFRAs are the same. Don’t be fooled. This latest batch, including in Indiana, is being enacted for a specific purpose: to permit anti-LGBT discrimination.

    • Your first point I assume is a direct result of Hobby Lobby.

    • Leyla1001nights

      Your explanation is great. I’m keeping it to respond to people who keep saying the law isn’t different. I’ll cite you as the source!

  • I dearly hope that the millennial generation will rise up soon and sweep away this ignorant cast of hate-filled politicians. I begin to despair of my own generation’s ability to make it happen.

    • kalisiin

      Likewise. I despair of my own Generation X having much a chance to get rid of this stuff. Most of Gen X is against this stuff, but the Boomers aren’t and they are still alive and very much in power.

      Maybe after they finally die or retire we can make some progress.

      To hell with the damn Boomers!

      And to hell with these rotten people who pass laws like this…you know what…MY religion requires me to discriminate agianst BIGOTS.

      Try and prove that it doesn’t. The law, as written, only requires me to assert such a belief. It does not require me to state the basis of that belief…nor for that belief to be congruent with the beliefs of any established religion.

      In effect, this law says I can discriminate aginst whosever I want to….and then claim RFRA…and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it.

      Well, to START with, I am now officially discriminating against Indiana.

      • B.L.

        How can you say that all Baby Boomers are against gays? There are people in every generation including yours that are against gays. Don’t label every Boomer as gay haters because that is far from the truth. Don’t judge a generation on the Politicians many are older then the Boomers. People can say many things against the younger generations as well. We all must realize that just because we may have been born during a certain era does a few represents a whole generation. The Baby Boomers consists of 3 different eras of Baby Boomers. I think you may need to stop pointing fingers you may be points some back at you.

        • kalisiin

          Generally, the Boomers are the biggest obstacle to progress we face in this country. The Boomers have all the money and all the power, and they like it just fine that way. They could care less about the younger generations having any chance whatsoever…they were brought up to believe they were SPECIAL….moreso than anyone and everyone else.

          Most of them follow Ayn Rand.

          Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, I did not spare my own generation it’s share of criticism. Of course, the main reason Gen X is ineffective at creating any change is obstruction from the Baby Boomers.

          We, Gen X…are the first generation that was systematically screwed by their elders. every previous generation was HELPED by their elders…my generation was not…Boomers were too busy grabbing up everything for themselves to give a damn about Gen X.

          Read “The 13th Generation” sometime, and you will see how my generation was systematically screwed by our parents.

  • John Pieret

    Whenever some business invokes this law, people of good will should organize boycotts and pickets of the business.If the business sells products made by national companies, many if not most of which have LGBT friendly policies, complain to their suppliers. I think you’ll find that the bottom line is more important than religious belief in most cases and, in the instances when it is not, it would not be the worst thing if they ended up going out of business.

  • VerbalKint

    The level of dishonesty surrounding this bill has been astounding. Here’s the reality: this bill changes exactly ZERO in codified Indiana law. It was already legal for Indiana businesses to discriminate against any non-protected classes such as homosexuals. Funny thing: virtually none do, nor will they after this law is passed. It’s all a big flag-waving tactic by right wingers to appeal to social conservatives concerned about Christian businesses which have been targeted by gay activists in other states. Anyone on either side getting their blood up about this waste of time is ignorant and/or overdramatic.

    • Okay, so you’ve got privilege – I’m guessing of the cis- het- white male flavor? Do you seriously believe people won’t use this well-publicized law to make life miserable for other people just because they feel they can? And I’m guessing any lawsuits that come out of it – from those who can afford to do so – will take many years to wind their way up through the various levels.

      • VerbalKint

        Ah, the “privilege” argument, great bastion of minority parties who want to stop a rational argument cold without debating it. Do I seriously believe it? Yes, because I lived in Indiana for two decades, the same Indiana where LGBT citizens ALREADY didn’t enjoy legal protections, and heard a total of ONE instance of religious objection being used to refuse service.

          • VerbalKint

            Oh look, you’re falling for someone who “anonymously” called into a radio station and said he’s excited he could discriminate now. Who knows who this cat was, especially given the willful dishonesty that’s already been on display regarding what the bill does and does not do.

          • LarryChemEngr

            Given the volume of public discourse on this topic in the media, it is now obvious that the right wing and Gov Pence have been the ones pushing willful dishonesty, and not the LGBT folks and their allies. Legal scholars have now lined up stating that this law does allow discrimination against LGBT. But Gov Pence could not bring his hypocritical self to answer any direct questions on that core issue. It was really pathetic. It kept going off on some irrelevant blather about how hospitable Hoosiers were, and how he couldn’t imagine anyone discriminating against anyone in Indiana. Well, his weak imagination is not germaine; what is germaine is what the law actually says, and legal scholars have made that abundantly clear. Your side is going down in flames on this one, due to their willful dishonesty, which everyone now sees.

          • VerbalKint

            I don’t have a “side” in this other than logic.

          • LarryChemEngr

            Really? Then what does your logic tell you about the motivations of Gov Pence and the right wing on the Indiana law? No waffling, now. Answer truthfully.

          • VerbalKint

            Pence and crew obviously passed the law as a method of flagwaving to cultural conservatives that he’s one of them. Many religious conservatives have been lobbying for these sort of laws after seeing vindictive, damaging actions taken against small business owners by activists in other states. But since the Indiana law essentially changed nothing legally, it was obviously a political move and nothing more.

          • LarryChemEngr

            You say that you don’t have a “side” and that you use only logic, but then you characterize legal action against LGBT discriminators as vindictive and damaging. It is very clear that you have a side after all.

          • VerbalKint

            A couple goes into a shop and asks for a particular service. They are told in a not-unfriendly manner that the shop owner’s personal beliefs preclude providing such a service. An alternate shop is suggested, where the sought-after goods are easily procured. The couple, even though they suffered no damages, choose to prosecute the shop owner, leading to severe financial damage from state penalties. Remember when I said I’m on the side of logic? Just try to defend that.

          • LarryChemEngr

            Where on earth did you get such a self serving rendition of the events? Maybe you missed all of the reports of restaurant owners saying, “We don’t serve fags here”.

            And just like your example, African Americans could have gone elsewhere politely when they were denied service at lunch counters. And don’t dare pretend that the Civil Rights struggles are not an accurate analogy to today’s events.

            You seem angry that certain shop owners were taken to court when they broke the law. And the courts indeed found that they broke the law and levied a paltry fine. And then the shop owners moan up a storm about how they are being persecuted. Yeah, right….

            You seem angry that entities “outside the state” got involved. Totally irrelevant, as I’m sure your logical mind would agree. But cases like this are why the ACLU exists. So what.

            The bottom line is this. In your private life, you can be a great big bigoted asshole, if you want. However, if you open a business and serve the public, you have to put that aside and serve ALL of the public.

            And don’t whine about how unfair it is that you were forced to obey the law. It doesn’t matter if you were polite to the people you hate when you threw them out of your business.

          • VerbalKint

            I wasn’t talking about the Indiana restaurant in my example, and I hav no idea what you’re talking about. Since you’ve left reality into LaLa Land and are beginning to either willfully obfuscate or have trouble keeping up with the conversation, I’m bowing out.

          • LarryChemEngr

            My comments are right from the news, VerbalKint, not LaLa Land. Your conversation hasn’t been all that erudite that one couldn’t keep up, so don’t pat yourself on the back. You are “bowing out” because you really don’t have “logical” arguments to support your untenable position.

          • VerbalKint

            Or, I’m just bored and I’ve made all the points I wanted to make. But whatever makes you feel better.

          • LarryChemEngr

            Well, your “points” WERE very boring, so I understand. Maybe you need some new material.

          • VerbalKint

            Yes, indeed, and they have been absolutely pilloried by the consumer public for their views, which ironically only strengthens my point that anti-discrimination business laws aren’t really needed in the Internet Age.

      • So… if a baker refuses to enter into a contract with you to bake a specific cake for an event they have a religious objection to… they’re making your life miserable?

        Wow… first world problems really suck.

        • How about if a crew of EMT’s refuse to help an accident victim because the person is LGBT (something that actually *has* happened)?

    • LarryChemEngr

      You say Christian businesses were targeted by gay activists in other states, and it sounds like you disapprove of this. If business owners break the law by denying service to LGBT persons, then they should be brought before the law. Or, would you prefer that LGBT persons just shut up and accept unlawful abuse?

      • VerbalKint

        Do I disapprove of a small, privately-owned business being put under by the state apparatus for stating they don’t perform a particular service, especially considering that in every instance the “victims” simply went down the street and ordered from a more welcoming business? Yes, I do, because I actually believe that business owners ALSO deserve liberty. Now, if you want to talk about a corporation or LLC with multiple owners that enjoy legal protections not afforded to small proprietorships, that’s a whole different ballgame. Not to mention a bakery or flower shop is not an essential public accommodation.

        • LarryChemEngr

          That would be rather humiliating for the gay couple to be turned away for being gay, but this wouldn’t bother insular you, apparently. Should businesses be required to post a sign in their windows stating that they won’t serve gay people, and thus avoid the conflict? This would certainly result in the loss of a lot of business from gay-friendly people. Do you think they would like putting up a sign, or would $$ suddenly trump their deeply held religious values?

          • VerbalKint

            Why should civil law protect against humiliation? Doesn’t that sound like thoughtcrime to you?

          • LarryChemEngr

            I didn’t say it should.

            Are you an Objectivist, by any chance?

          • VerbalKint

            Not even close to one. I detest Rand.

        • LarryChemEngr

          I suppose you were also OK with segregation. After all, blacks could have just as easily gone down the street to a more welcoming lunch counter.

          Look, either we have laws that people follow, or we don’t.

      • VerbalKint

        Today I saw on a friend’s Facebook page where a gay-owned wedding shop had put a sign up in their window stating that they didn’t serve individuals who had been previously married, as they religiously objected to adultery. Do you know how I responded? I laughed and said “Good for them. Turnabout is fair play.” In life, you are going to run into people who just plain don’t like you. But the institutionalized oppression of earlier generations doesn’t exist in America anymore. Now anyone can get a loan to start their own business from the bank. The US government even makes it EASIER for you to get a loan if you’re a member of specific minority parties. We have a freer market in America today than any time in our history in regards to consumer options. If someone is rude enough to say “I don’t serve your kind” my suggestion is turn around, brush your shoulder off, put them on blast on social media, then go spend your money somewhere else. If enough people disagree with their stance, the market will take care of the rest. (And no, I’m not a libertarian.)

        • LarryChemEngr

          That’s very stalwart of you. Have you ever actually experienced such in-your-face discrimination, and did that turnabout?

  • Jessica Russell

    This will be the death of Indiana and the US if other states pass similar bills. It is so infuriating. Goodbye land of the free, Hello home of the bigots.

  • Jeff

    “While legal experts have argued that similar legislation in other states has yet to be used successfully to justify discrimination, many are still concerned.”

    So, in other words — we should ignore the work of actual (legal) scholars, and listen instead to amateur “pseudo-scholarship”, is that correct?

    My suggestion to progressives? Cease and desist with the fear-mongering rhetoric, and embrace the law in its entirety. Recognize that the language of the law mirrors the federal law, which originally passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (it was led by Schumer originally, actually). State unequivocally that you support religious freedom, and that you don’t want anyone to be compelled by the government to violate a sincerely held religious belief, or punished for refusing to do so. Affirm the benefits of living in a diverse society. Acknowledge appreciation that the law codifies what religious freedom means at a practical level, and observe that it also sets reasonable limitations on that as well. Distance yourself from “concerns” that such a law renders permissible the violation of the safeguards that protect children or opens the door to medical professionals refusing to discharge their responsibilities to patients with whom they disagree; call these “concerns” out for the bigoted anti-religion fear-mongering that they are (and of course, at the same time you can state firmly that anyone who actually thought such behavior was permitted under the law is wrong, wrong, wrong).

    You asked for advice, there you go.

    • Actually, since I wrote those words, I’ve heard from other lawyers and legal experts who are persuaded that the legislation in Indiana is (1) significantly different from the legislation in other states, and (2) while it may not ultimately undermine existing protections for minorities – and indeed, majorities – it now makes it necessary for the state to show that it can justify allowing such protection to trump the “religious freedom” of people and of corporations.

      You present this as anti-religion fear-mongering. I am viewing this from my standpoint as a Christian, in the Baptist tradition which historically affirms the separation of church and state. Baptists fled Britain and elsewhere due to persecution by people with sincerely held religious beliefs, which had the authority of the state behind them. I am not engaging in anti-religion fear-mongering. I am articulating a religious concern to avoid history repeating itself.

      • Jeff

        Fair enough; the language of the statute looks superficially similar to the federal statute to my untrained legal eye, but will be interesting to see what the experts say, as well as whether this law turns out to be so different in practice from the other 19 state level RFRA laws that the wave of hysteria it has induced will be justified.

        Are you fear-mongering? I don’t know. If the “FreedomIndiana” graphic you posted fear-mongering? Yes, without a doubt. As a Christian, suggesting that a law enforcement officer or an EMT might not perform their duties for a member of a different race or religion is pretty uncharitable. Do those things happen? Yes. As a society, we recognize such individuals as bad actors. To allege that this law will embolden and legalize such behavior is to suggest that people of faith are bad actors generally, but have merely been constrained by fear of legal reprisal.

        As I said, I think a better, more “liberal”, more “Christian” tack, is to embrace the law, strongly and vocally support the law’s aim (to not burden anyone to violate their conscience), and to state that you expect the proponents of the law to stand with you in solidarity (as they claim they will do) against anyone who attempts to exploit the law to discriminate, harass, or harm someone of a different race, religion, creed, lifestyle, etc.

        • Andrew Dowling

          But there’s no problem the law is correcting. There’s no reason to have this statute other than to provide cover for discrimination. And please, if I hear another sob story about those damn cake bakers, I’m going to throw up.

          • VerbalKint

            If the cake bakers are constrained by being forced to provide service to everyone, but consumers are not constrained in who they purchase from, who sounds like the actual victim in that scenario?

          • Andrew Dowling

            You’re assuming a perfect marketplace, which usually don’t exist. What if they’re the only bakery in town? What if we’re talking a bank and not a bakery?

            When one enters the public marketplace, yes they have to park their private biases at the door in terms of basic service.

          • VerbalKint

            Virtually all banks are protected by the FDIC and as entities whose primary purpose is facilitating the protection and flow of fiat state currency, are for all practical purposes a de facto arm of the state. Nonetheless, even banks discriminate–try walking into one and getting a loan with a low credit score.

            Also, my example does not require a “perfect marketplace” to work….even if the people in question have to drive 1000 miles to find another bakery, they are still less constrained in terms of liberty than the person who is forced to provide a service they do not wish to provide. Of course, all of this is hypothetical, because virtually every real-life example of this has been provided by people who simply went right down the street to get the service they desired.

          • LarryChemEngr

            Your hypothetical makes no sense. How could having to drive 1000 miles be less of a burden than a baker just baking another cake?

            The point is, the people shouldn’t have to go to another store right down the street. The law requires that businesses provide equal services to all. Your argument could have been used in the 1960’s to tell blacks to stop fussing about segregation and go to some other welcoming lunch counter. Not acceptable.

          • VerbalKint

            Your argument ignores that blacks experienced institutional racism, laws that actually directly allowed not only for specific discrimination against them without recourse, but also prevented them from using the full power of capital. There is absolutely no correlate to that in today’s society. You also ignore the reality that we live in a social-media saturated capitalist society in which consumer choice is greater than any time in human history. If you repealed every civil rights law pertaining to businesses as of tomorrow, less than 1% would turn away customers based on the invalidated protections. This is a total non-issue.

          • LarryChemEngr

            rubbish, you are quibbling. Its only been in the last few years that the institutional discrimination against LGBT people have been successfully fought against, but it is not yet complete. The correlations to today’s society are huge, especially for LGBT. It is a huge issue, but since you are not personally affected (I assume you are not LGBT) you are insulated from that reality.

          • VerbalKint

            The only current institutional discrimination occurring against LGBT individuals is their right to civil marriage, which I fully support. I do not believe the state should discriminate, but when it comes to private citizens and privately-owned businesses, my views are much more nuanced.

          • LarryChemEngr

            The fight for civil marriage for LGBT is a recent near win, and make no mistake, our opponents are the same individuals that would deny us service at the lunch counter today. So, you’re OK with individuals or companies firing their LGBT employees, which is perfectly legal in many states, even if their LGBT status has utterly no bearing on their job performance or the prestige of the company? In my view, that is laissez-faire gone too wild. You forget that those privately owned businesses operate in the public sphere, and are subject to the law. And if the law says you cannot deny equal access in your business, then that is that.

            Here is my prediction as to how the Indiana case will go down. Some jerk will deny service to an LGBT customer and quote “deeply held religious views” (with no burden of proof). The ACLU will sue, and the store owner will lose. The law will be invalidated, after millions and millions of dollars were spent. But Governor Pence will have succeeded in looking good to his bigoted fan base, which is all he cares about. All the while denying that anti-gay animus had nothing, nothing, nothing to do with this law. What a crock.

          • VerbalKint

            Here’s the problem with using the “this is what the law says, and that’s that” argument: it’s exactly what people used to argue to justify slavery and all other sorts of things. Just because a law exists doesn’t mean it should, so saying “that’s the law” is pretty much a nana-boo-boo tactic. I have no Interest in talking about what laws DO say, only what they SHOULD say. Secondly, denying service to a customer is an entirely different issue than firing an employee.

          • LarryChemEngr

            It is certainly true that the law must prevail until righteous forces change a bad law, such as slavery. That is one of the facts of life of living in an imperfect world. You say that denying service is an entirely different issue than firing someone. Certainly there are differences, as no analogy is perfect, but you stretch it when you say “entirely different”. I could equally quibble that your slavery argument is “entirely different” from LGBT access to public accommodations.

          • Nick G

            when it comes to private citizens and privately-owned businesses, my views are much more nuanced.

            Translation: I prioritise bigots over their victims.

          • VerbalKint

            I prioritize freedom over force.

          • LarryChemEngr

            We would draw the line at different places. I would say that an individual’s personal free exercise of their religion is guaranteed, and if they wanted to use religion as their basis for discriminating against LGBT persons in their personal lives, that is certainly their prerogative. But, if they enter the public sphere and operate a business, then they must leave their personal religious prejudices out, and provide equal services to all. That would NOT infringe on their personal free exercise of their religion.

          • VerbalKint

            Where we draw the line differently is that I see a privately-owned business as an extension of the individual that owns it, and therefore one that deserves the same freedoms he/she enjoys. This is why I limit my argument strictly to small, privately-owned businesses, and not to publicly-traded corporations or limited liability companies that shield their owners from personal liability. The exception I would make to that is in the case of services which if refused can cause harm to an individual seeking it (i.e.-food, shelter, healthcare).

          • LarryChemEngr

            So you see nothing wrong with a privately owned restaurant telling an interracial couple to get out, because his religion forbids mixing of the races.

          • VerbalKint

            I surely see something wrong with it. It’s repugnant. I see something wrong with a lot of things that people do. But that doesn’t mean I believe they should automatically be illegal. What do you honestly think would happen to a restaurant that did that in the social media age?

          • LarryChemEngr

            Why shouldn’t it be illegal?

          • VerbalKint

            I typically hate to answer Socratically, but in this case feel I must to drive the point home: why SHOULD it be illegal?

          • LarryChemEngr

            I absolutely knew you were going to say that. No waffling now, answer the question. Why shouldn’t it be illegal? Then, I’ll answer yours, why it should be illegal.

          • Nick G

            Virtually all banks are protected by the FDIC and as entities whose primary purpose is facilitating the protection and
            flow of fiat state currency, are for all practical purposes a de facto
            arm of the state.

            This sort of nonsense at least has the benefit of telling everyone where you’re coming from. The primary purpose of private banks is, like that of all private corporations, to generate profits for their owners.

          • VerbalKint

            Do yourself a favor and look up the meaning of the phrase “de facto”. That piece of advice comes free of charge, even for assholes.

          • LarryChemEngr

            The current rhetorical tactic of the religious right in casting themselves as the victim here is laughably outrageous.

        • Curious55

          Actually, Indiana’s law does not mirror the federal RFRA in a very important way. It allows individuals to assert an RFRA defense even when no state action is involved. The courts are divided on this issue, but it is disingenuous to suggest that nothing new is happening.

          The challenge is not diversity, but an attempt to redefine decades of public accommodations jurisprudence. Public accommodations has always defined the liberty interest broadly. So, for instance, the state interest in preventing businesses from asserting a religious belief against serving blacks (as was the case historically) has never been about whether blacks can walk down the street to get served. The state’s interest is not in ensuring that blacks can get served cake, but that an entire class of people are treated as equal in public spaces.

          In other cases where RFRA interests have been asserted, the state itself, rather than disputes between private parties, is more properly implicated. For instance, when a Sikh refuses to cut his hair while serving in the military, and when a Muslim would like to keep a short beard in a U.S. prison. So, the government itself is the counterparty in these suits.

          But using RFRA as a private defense (e.g. between a gay couple and a Christian owner) is an entirely novel use of RFRA, and it would not have been supported by many people, lawyers, or legislators had it been understood that it would be used in this way.

          So, I think that we can have a good discussion about it. But characterizing those who are worried about it as “hysterical” and “fear-mongering” accomplishes exactly the type of fear-mongering it ironically attempts to discourage against.

  • chrisvogel

    This is very typical of religious conservatives. Indiana has no law that prohibits discrimination against homosexuals in business services or, for that matter, in anything else (employment, rental housing, etc.), so that was legal anyway. And, for all that, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” now in force here and in the other 19 states that have enacted it, applies to everything. Despite its proponents claiming that it is to permit discrimination against homosexuals in business services, the Act itself is not limited to, either, sexual orientation, or to business services. Now it is legal, in Indiana, to discriminate against anyone (everyone) in any area (including employment and housing), provided that you claim that you have a “firmly held conviction”. All very Christian.

    • There were no protections at the state level before, but now there are state sanctioned encouragements – practically goading – to discriminate. That was indeed the purpose of the bill, was it not?

      • chrisvogel

        Possibly. It’s hard to know. Religious people live on childish delusion and ridiculous fabrication, so it is hard for someone else to determine their motivations. There were protections against discrimination in Indiana law on the grounds of race, gender, religion and disability. These are now invalid, thanks to the RFSA.

        • The Federal protections that existed still exist, but a lot of people will be made miserable or worse while it winds through the courts for years…

        • Singing Whale

          Childish – sounds like queens.

        • Josh Magda

          “Religious people live on childish delusion and ridiculous fabrication”

          Another Mighty Mouse has “come to save the day.”
          Seriously, how often do Progressives go into the Atheist channel and talk down to folks there? Geesh.

          Thanks for your opposition to RFSA, but we could do without the door-prize of animosity.

          • chrisvogel

            Entirely justified. You are very welcome.

          • Josh Magda

            Entirely unjustified. No one deserves to have a pickup truck of hateful stupidity dumped on them. I’m sure you’ve been hurt by religion. So have I and so has every gay Christian I know. But you are among friends and allies at Patheos Progressive.

        • xram

          It is rather difficult to take seriously someone who complains about discrimination while spewing forth a barrage of bigoted hate-speech.

          • chrisvogel

            Nope, just lots of experience. I can see that being religious has the advantage that you don’t have to pay any attention to reality.

          • That statement seems to me far too sweeping. The religious people who pioneered Biblical criticism in the past, and those who have been actively at the forefront of the marriage equality movement in the present, do not deserve to be treated with such a broad brush any more than atheists, or gays and lesbians, or anyone else.

          • chrisvogel

            What a good idea. Have their been “religious people…who have actively at the forefront of the marriage equality movement…? I hadn’t noticed. Perhaps they were crouching.

          • I realize that the media often gives more attention to extremists, but there really is no excuse for not knowing about things like this. The Reconstructionist and Reform branches of Judaism were noteworthy progressive voices and examples, well before the modern surge in attention, to give just a couple of examples.

          • chrisvogel

            Glad to hear it (although I don’t believe you). Certainly they were silent or opposed here to every stage of reform, from decriminalisation, though human rights protection, to marriage. Happily, though, that made no difference, since young Jews, like young people generally today, pay no attention to the churches of their parents.

          • Since you do not know enough about Judaism to know that they do not go to “churches,” it is unsurprising that the history of these two major branches with respect to including and ordaining gays and lesbians is unknown to you.

          • chrisvogel

            Ok, temples. In any case, this is a very useful exercise at this stage, when the bigots claim they weren’t, just like whites in the South now claim they are not racist and oppose slavery. Keep up the good work and, eventually, someone will believe you, if only out of sheer ignorance.

          • chrisvogel

            Have done. Unfortunately for your, these citations prove how rare, and, in the case of Hirschfeld, how temporary were these early initiatives, precisely because the society in which they occurred (not least, the religious authorities) was so hostile to homosexuals.

          • How does the fact that the society in which people took such stands was hostile to homosexuals make this less admirable rather than more so? Many atheist Communist societies had laws against homosexuality, while ancient Greece was religious and was culturally bisexual in interesting ways. And so it is no good pretending that this a religion-vs.-non-religion matter. Unless you want to engage in further historical denialism.

          • chrisvogel

            Of course it is admirable even if, in the short run, ineffective. However the hostility of society was driven and justified by the vast majority of religious authorities, then and now. Communism (and Fascism) are just more religion: the Book, the Leader, and, most importantly the mystical Conviction, carefully inculcated, that there was one correct answer to everything and that those who seemed not to follow this were evil and needed to be eradicated. Not all religions are deist. All are foolish and destructive.

          • If you are going to define religion so broadly that it includes atheist systems, then we can probably agree that there is harm caused by them across the board, and that there is benefit brought by spiritual and atheist individuals despite systems of those sorts.

          • chrisvogel

            They may have claimed to be atheist, and it would have been wonderful (and history much different) if they were, but they buh-leeved, just as mindlessly, mistakenly and viciously in doctrines that were indistinguishable in practice from those adopted by religious zealots, and for the same reasons. As for benefits from “spiritual” individuals, these arise, if at all, among those whose adherence to their doctrines is weak and variable. They do, in any case, constitute the vanguard of those abandoning religion altogether, which is a good thing.

          • So a religion is any group that does things that you consider reprehensible, even if they are anti-religious, and anyone who gives expression to a progressive or liberal form of faith, no matter how longstanding that tradition may be, they are actually in the process of abandoning religion?

            Those definitions seem not merely implausible, but self-serving.

          • chrisvogel

            Certainly, doing reprehensible things seems to be the hallmark of religion, however constructed. Happily, modern secular governments do not permit the churches their traditional, homicidal, responses to difference. What is the characteristic that defines all religions is the adamant conviction that it defines what is right or wrong, entirely on the basis of a doctrine, with no variance allowed (or else). I can’t speak of course, about those who abandon these doctrines to the extent that they are prepared to tolerate others with different doctrines (whose differences, in practice, are often so fine and arcane as to be invisible to outsiders), and who do not automatically call for the eradication of those others. It looks to me to be a convenient and comfortable way out of what is, increasingly seen as a ridiculous and utterly imaginary construct. Of course, everyone should have–this is a very modern and atheistic notion–the right to believe, practice and preach whatever they want. And, when that concept becomes universal, there will be much less mass murder.

          • It is sad to see someone have such strong opinions about a topic they know so little about.

            You are welcome to try to hijack freedom of conscience as though atheists invented it, but you will find the Baptists beat you to it, and were not the first to ever come up with the idea.

  • Josh Magda

    The way this bill could be shut down in the space of a day or two, is if there was a massive, Chick-Fil-A style weekend where progressive business owners started refusing service to homophobes. It’s Indiana, so tons of people would be affected. Put a sign on the front door. Or better yet, ask at the checkout counter “do you support marriage equality for gays and lesbians?” and if the answer is no, the cash register clicks closed as fast as it was opened.

    But it’s not going to happen. It’s Indiana, after all, and progressive businesses likely couldn’t take that big of a hit- even for a single weekend. That’s what they’ll tell themselves.

  • James, one important step is for people of religious conscience to opt out of these laws. I’ll state it simply: my practice of Judaism is not burdened by the administration of U.S. State and Federal law. Indeed: the application of American law allows me a freedom of religious practice that is unprecedented in the diaspora. I am personally grateful for this rule of law, and I do not seek special exemption from this rule. Instead, I affirm that the pursuit of justice is central to my religious practice, and that the rule of law is central to the administration of justice.

    This is not to deny my right to protest those laws I find unjust, and to fight for the improvement of our legal system. This is not to deny my right to oppose unjust laws through the exercise of nonviolent civil disobedience. I affirm the importance of our existing Constitutional protection of religious practice and belief.

    But I deny the idea that my individual religious belief, no matter how sincere, gives me the right to disobey the law without consequence. I deny the idea that seems to stand behind the Indiana law, that religious belief is somehow an excuse for discrimination and intolerance. As a person of religious belief, I deeply resent that this law purports to speak for me. I hereby affirm that the religions ostensibly “protected” under this law do NOT include my own religion, and I hereby deny that any Jew who supports this legislation speaks for me or for Judaism as a whole. Instead, I affirm that Judaism stands with those targeted by this law, and with victims of religious persecution everywhere. And for whatever it is worth, I also affirm that according to my best understanding of Christianity and every other world religion, I think that all people of sincere religious belief stand with me.

    James, you asked how we should respond. The above response is inadequate, but maybe it’s a start.

    • I think you put that very well. Might I be permitted to quote you? Perhaps by making your words a meme, the message might spread more effectively? I’m thinking that this part works well as a pull quote:

      I deny the idea that my individual religious belief, no matter how sincere, gives me the right to disobey the law without consequence. I deny the idea that seems to stand behind the Indiana law, that religious belief is somehow an excuse for discrimination and intolerance. As a person of religious belief, I deeply resent that this law purports to speak for me. I hereby affirm that the religions ostensibly “protected” under this law do NOT include my own religion, and I hereby deny that any Jew who supports this legislation speaks for me or for Judaism as a whole. Instead, I affirm that Judaism stands with those targeted by this law, and with victims of religious persecution everywhere. And for whatever it is worth, I also affirm that according to my best understanding of Christianity and every other world religion, I think that all people of sincere religious belief stand with me.

  • “The real problem with this legislation is that it puts the onus on the government to justify…”

    And just how much extra funding was provided to ensure that onus is sufficiently carried out?

    Exactly.

  • Alfred Marquez

    So… Business owners in Indiana are free to restrict the freedom of others based on their religious freedoms which they freely exercise?

  • Curious55

    My take on this is a little different. I think the problem with RFRA is that it violates the First Amendment by discriminating against views based on whether they are couched in religious garb. Let’s take an example. Devout Christian baker decides not to bake wedding cake for gays because he is against same-sex marriage. He is able to assert an RFRA defense. Devout Secular baker decides not to bake a wedding cake, also because he does not believe in same-sex marriage. However, he is unable to assert an RFRA defense.

    How exactly does the court distinguish between a sincerely-held religious belief, and a sincerely-held philosophical belief? What does it take for his beliefs to count as a “religion”? Certain number of members? Holding regular meetings? A code of commandments?

    Ultimately, as Justice Stevens observed in City of Boerne v. Flores, the arc of RFRA jurisprudence is bending toward the recognition that the First Amendment does not permit establishment of religious claims against non-religious claims. Either they can both be asserted (they can use the same standard of scrutiny), or neither can.

  • Outrage against Mike #RecallPence and Indiana’s #‪ReligiousFreedomRestorationAct‬ are not enough. Queer Hoosiers are not protected from discrimination and hate crimes to begin with. ‪#‎BoycottIndiana‬ is a wake up call, but it is misplaced and does nothing to end discrimination or hate crimes. Queer Americans in most states are not protected from discrimination and hate crimes nor are they protected at all at the Federal level. If you want to do something, demand ‪#‎CivilRightsForAllHoosiers‬ (and your state) and ‪#‎CivilRightsForAllAmericans‬ and share and sign these petitions:

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/civil-rights-protections?source=c.em&r_by=1139276

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/civil-rights-for-all-3?source=c.em&r_by=1139276

    http://incorrigiblycorey.blogspot.com/2015/03/can-last-straw-be-first.html

  • Ngoldwe

    How should we respond? As individuals,
    not much. BUT as a collective, a lot! First and formost recognize
    this legislation and others like it being passed in other states for
    what it is: Dominionist legislation which is are attempts at
    establishing a theocracy.

    Second: understand that
    Dominionists are fascist Christians that view others that are not
    like themselves as sub-human undesirables that deserve to be
    eliminated from society so that they, the Dominionists, can establish
    a fascist Christian state. This is what they believe: in order for
    Jesus to return the Apocalypse to occur Christians must occupy seats
    of government and establish dominion (this is their Dominion
    Theology) over the Earth and make Biblical Levitical Law THE LAW of
    the land. There is no room for gays, or atheists, or pagans, nor
    Christians who are liberal in their paradigm.

    Third: people who oppose Dominionism
    must pull together and organize. This is a perfect opportunity to do
    that. If you are planning to demonstrate and protest, underscore and
    make an emphasis on Dominionism and shine a spotlight on the fact
    that the people who pushed this legislation and are backing it are
    Dominioinists trying to establish a theocracy. Not enough people
    understand that this is truly what is going on. We have got to
    capture the Media’s attention on this angle of the story because they
    are not reporting on it for the very reasons of either they do not
    have a clue about Dominionism. Organize, join together in protests
    in front of the Indiana State Legislature building and have the word
    “Dominionism,” “(insert name here) is a Dominionis Christian
    Fascist,” and “theocracy”
    on your protest signs. Also, if
    you are given the opportunity of being interviewed by a reporter
    emphasize the Dominionist nature of this legislation and name names
    of who is a Dominionist. We have got to call them out and publically
    mark them as such.

    Fourth, and finally, raise a stink!
    Follow these Dominionist treasounous bastards who supported that bill
    and call them out publically and hound them. Call a spade a spade:
    Dominionists are traitors. Call attention to them at every
    opportunity and do it often. Occupy and participate in civil
    disobedience if necessary to get the word out to the wider public.
    Dominionists must no longer go unnoticed by the wider public in their
    stealth campaigns. The time for in-your-face oppostion to
    Dominionism is now. The only proper response to Dominionism is
    confrontation.