Story by: Stephanie McDole, staff writer
A new law in Indiana has sparked controversy over the past couple of weeks. According to JURIST, the RFRA, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was approved on a vote of 40-10 and signed into law by Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, on March 26.
According to the Indiana General Assembly the law, “Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.”
The law basically states that the government will not force citizens to go against their religion.
Many of the people against the new law believe that it was was aimed at the LGBT community. However, Pence claims that the law was never intended to legalize discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.
According the Indy Star, Pence said, “I’ve never supported that. It’s not on my agenda. But I think it’s a completely separate question. I mean, we are talking about the religious freedom restoration act, which is about restoring the highest level of scrutiny in our state courts in matters of government action that intrude upon the religious liberty of Hoosiers. That’s where I want to stay focused.”
Although Pence has said that the law was not made to discriminate, it still continues to spark controversy, mostly between religious groups and the LGBT community. Despite the laws supposed intentions, the Christian community fired back.
According to USA Today, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), voted unanimously to find a new location for their 2017 convention because they did not support the new bill. The General Minister and President, Sharon Watkins, said, “As a Christian church, we affirm and support religious freedom. It is, in fact, a core principle for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We are also strongly committed to an inclusive community — just as Jesus welcomed all to the table.”
The new law has become quite a topic for news stations across America. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart and former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, talked about the Indiana RFRA and the Arkansas RFRA.
According to the Daily News, Huckabee said, “The reasons that those corporations put the pressure on Indiana and Arkansas was because the militant gay community put the pressure on them.”
Stewarts responded with, “Shut up! So when gays want equality, it’s militancy, and when Christians want to deny service, it’s freedom?”
A new draft of the RFRA has been passed by the Republican party as of April 2.
According to the Indy Star, “This new proposal guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and empowers the government to impose punishing fines on people for following their beliefs about marriage.”
Indiana State Representative of the Democratic Party, Ed Delaney, released a statement saying, “ the ‘fix’ is not enough.”
Delaney released an email to his constituents in which he stated, “I see only one remedy that needs to be taken. First, we need to repeal the current law—then we must reform our civil rights law to add sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, we need to rewrite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to actually mirror that of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Only then will we be able to send a message to those living in the state and those watching that Indiana is open to all.”