Following public outrage by uninformed voices, Indiana Governor Mike Pence has kowtowed to know-nothing critics and says the state will “fix” the religious freedom act he signed into law March 25.
No fix is necessary.
The law is clear and previously-adopted Indiana statutes and documents are unambiguous. This is yet another too frequent instance of people ignorantly protesting without first doing their homework.
Critics erroneously argue that Indiana’s law will allow some businesses to claim a religious right to discriminate against customers those businesses don’t want.
The bogus interpretations is based on a false understanding of the “substantial burden” language in the law. Opponents incorrectly interpret the wording to mean that businesses can claim a religious freedom right to refuse service to certain persons such as gays or lesbians if homosexuality violates the business’s personal faith. A few minutes researching easily accessible records shows this interpretation is wrong.
Ignored in the debate is the language that allows the government to impose a burden in the case of a compelling reason. This, of course, would include discriminatory business practices by the business. Such discrimination already is outlawed by Indiana statutes.
Section 23 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana clearly prohibits discrimination against any resident of the state.
Indiana Civil Rights (IC 22-9) further states that all citizens have equal access to public “conveniences and accommodations.” Federal law defines public conveniences and accommodations to include both government and private sector businesses. And Indiana civil rights law is equally specific.
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives businesses the right to claim a religious exemption in court. The act does not allow any business or person to discriminate. As shown above, the state already outlaws such practice.
Once again we have a case of uninformed outrage. Had the critics taken the time to actually read the law, they would have seen their anger was misplaced, unjustified and unnecessary.
Yes, the Indiana General Assembly probably will add language to satisfy those who wrongfully think the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is flawed and may actually allow businesses to discriminate.
It doesn’t. It won’t. And any “fix” of the law is a waste of state legislators’ time, Indiana taxpayers’ expense, and an embarrassing acquiescence to uninformed voices.
Existing Indiana laws give the state the right to reject religious freedom claims when it is in the greater public interest to do so.
Tinkering with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act may be good public relations, but it’s bad policy.