Freedom gone too far

Story by: Ian Carson, Managing Editor
Photo by: Samuel Jobe, staff photographer

religious freedom

Discrimination was legal thanks to Governor Mike Pence and his ever-faithful GOP companions. With the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it was legal to prevent anyone, though homosexuals were the most commonly cited example in this case, from entering a business and using its services. 

The original bill was not specifically designed to permit this activity, but it allowed it. Both the amended bill and the original bill allow for any form of religious expression so long as the State has no “compelling interest” to prevent it. What a compelling interest is exactly, is yet to be defined. This also protects citizens against governmental practices that limit freedom of religion, and allows for people to request a form of repayment if the government prevents this freedom.

As a defence for this law, Pence cited the fact that this was already made federal law by President Bill Clinton, but the law was deemed unconstitutional in City of Boerne v. Flores in 1997, which said that the similar laws should be decided by the states, and not the federal government. This bill is not the same as the federal law, and varied distinctly from other states that had protections for LGBT citizens embedded within the bill. In those bills, LGBT citizens were defined as a protected class of citizens because of the higher likelihood of discrimination, something many states already so for racial minorities. Lying to people, or in this case omitting the truth, is not the way to go when making an argument, and it seems that the governor is running out of argumentative tactics.

What this bill did allow for is discrimination. Although the bill may seem harmless, and almost needed, at first glance, it allowed for businesses to refuse service to anyone based off their religion as a form of religious expression. This is discrimination. And this is not okay. Businesses cannot refuse service to people because of their race, as was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the federal level, however gender identity and sexuality are not protected.

There have been other negative effects on the state as well.

Ignoring the moral transgressions of the bill, it would have a negative impact on Indiana’s economy. Already companies like Eli Lilly and Apple have spoken out against the bill. GenCon and even the Disciples of Christ threatened to pull conventions from Indiana, which are both big money-boosters to the state economy. Indiana has developed a reputation as an unwelcoming and closed-minded state, stuck in the past and bound by bigotry. This is not how Indiana should be seen.

Indiana should get on the right side of history and develop a protected class for LGBT citizens, as they are part of a minority who deserve governmental protection to avoid discrimination. Other states included this within their bills, specifically prohibiting the discrimination that the Indiana bill initially allowed. Representative Ed DeLaney has already proposed two bills that provide such protections.

Recently Mike Pence signed a bill that provided limited protection on the basis of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation– the first time these words have appeared in any Indiana statute. The phrase “too little too late” comes to mind. Indiana has already developed a reputation as a bigoted state, which is a hard reputation to fix.

“I believe that such a bill would prove to be negative for Indiana citizens, even with an addendum,” said Aaron Vodney, 10. 

A bill such as this, disguised as religious freedom, allows people to take away freedom from others. The bill limited the freedom to shop at stores, to provide patronage, and the right to an open economy. The fix cannot fix what already happened. It is impossible to erase history.

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