Thursday, March 26, 2015

Indiana "Religious Freedom" Bill Signed

It sounds like The Satanic Temple may have a new target, and it's a big one. Today Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into a law a bill that prohibits state or local ordinances that "substantially burden" religious beliefs. The bill was modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which activists have used to promote non-Christian invocations at government functions and non-Christian holiday displays based on the Supreme Court's ruling that the law must apply to all religious beliefs equally in order to be constitutional.

The bill, co-authored by State Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), was approved by the Indiana House of Representatives Monday with a vote of 63-31 and the Senate concurred Tuesday, voting 40-10 along party lines. The bill that would prohibit any state or local laws that "substantially burden" the religious beliefs of an individual, business or religious institution.

"The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action," Pence said in a statement.

The bill is modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by Congress in 1993. Supporters say it protects religious liberty from government intrusion, but opponents say it's a license to discriminate.

The bill was widely opposed by a number of organizations on these grounds. Both the Disciples of Christ and Gen Con threatened to relocate their conventions if the bill passed, so now we'll see if they follow through on those threats. Software vendor Salesforce has likewise cancelled all programs that might require travel to Indiana.

While the bill's advocates claim that it won't be used to promote discrimination, I'll believe that when I see it. Generally speaking, the Poor Oppressed Christians come in and ruin such laws for everyone by insisting members of other religions, even other Christian denominations, "substantially burden" their religious beliefs by merely existing. It doesn't get much more discriminatory than that.

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List with Laszlo said...

If Minnesota had this law, Muslim cabbies could again refuse to give rides to people carrying alcohol, dogs or gay people. They could even refuse rises to unaccompanied women. They could again refuse to ring up pork products at the check out. Really, is this where we want to go?

Scott Stenwick said...

Yes, this is an all-around silly law, even if you're Christian. Supporters of it seem to think that Christians are going to benefit because they're in the majority, but religious freedom has to apply equally.

Arizona had a pending bill like this one a year or two back, but wisely dropped it when lawmakers realized that non-Christians, including Muslims, would be able to take advantage of it as well. But Indiana lawmakers don't appear to have gotten the message.