Governor Mike Pense signed an unnecessary piece of legislation and in the process opened a moral cesspool. Indiana adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law found in various similar forms in 19 other States and patterned after the Federal Law enacted in 1993. With these existing precedents, what can be so wrong with Indian’s law?
So consider this. A restaurant owner decides that he will not serve patrons who are left handed. If a guest enters and is believed to be left handed, the guest is told to leave because the restaurant won’t serve him or her. Public accommodation laws have established that this type of discrimination is illegal if the establishment is open to the public (in private settings, it is perfectly legal to refuse service to left handed people).
The anti-left handers association might have thought about this predicament and sought to find a more fundamental reason to deny service. Voila. What if ones religion justified discrimination against left handedness? Perfect.
A corner stone of America founding was “religious freedom”. Compared to Europe in the 16 and 17 hundreds, the right of an individual to practice their religion without fear of prosecution was a highly valued freedom. The American Constitution specifically says the government shall establish no State religion.
Every American has a right to choose and practice any religion he or she prefers providing the free exercise does not interfere with another person including those who follow no religion. RFRA nibbles away at that clear and sensible boundaries of religious freedom and in essence says if I claim my religion justifies some behavior, you can suit me and I’ll see you in court.
RFRA supporters claim the objection to Indiana’s RFRA is over blown. No court, supporters claim, would support a return to Jim Crow type of discrimination. Therefore there is no need to be concerned. Hmmm.
The opposition to Indian’s law has been the belief this is a thinly veiled “get out of jail” card for businesses that do not wished to serve homosexuals. What anyone thinks about homosexuality is a personal issue. What ought not be up for debate is whether or not a public business can define service for some customers differently from others. Religion should play no part in public accommodation choice. By definition, a public business is just that, it is open to the public.
If one wants to see the absurdity of this type of law, think about the many ways one might construe their religious beliefs. What could believers do with just the seven deadly sins?
- Lust – Two customers holding hands or acting romantically
- Gluttony – Someone overweight or ordering extra portions
- Greed – Someone wearing excessive jewelry or simply know to be wealthy
- Sloth – Someone who is known as a non-believer
- Wrath – A Jewish customer in a Muslim store or vice versa
- Envy – Anyone deemed more beautiful, richer, funnier, etc
- Pride – Anyone deemed not “good enough” in any quality or characteristic compared to the owner
RFRA legislation falls in a class of absolutely unnecessary pandering laws whose sole purpose are to mollify (reward) religious voters who are offended that their moral views are being trespassed by someone else. In a Country where there is separation of Church and State, there is no place for this back door approach to eliminating “freedom from religion”.