Wednesday, 1 April 2015

What's Going on with Indiana's Religious Freedom Law?

By: Ema Brazdeikyte
All of the attention this week is focused on the state of Indiana and its governor, Mike Pence. Organizations like the NCAA want to pull March Madness and its Final Four round out of Indiana all because of their new religious freedom law, SB 101. There’s nothing new about religion-based freedom laws in the US, but Indiana’s law is different because, thanks to the wording, it sounds like the state of Indiana may be legally allowing discrimination.

Indiana’s “Senate Bill 101” is essentially designed to protect the people’s religious freedom in a pretty standard way. However, the law contains strange writing basically saying that it can be applied to claims of religious freedom being violated in interactions between private citizens. There also isn’t any real definition of “religion” in the bill so the basis for what freedoms are being protected is super broad.

This means that Indiana’s law is much broader in what it claims to protect than what others may like. It’s so broad that it could be construed as taking legal superiority over human rights laws meant to prevent discrimination against people who are unfortunately pushed to the edge of society by not allowing them a place within it. Indiana also doesn’t have any anti-discrimination laws against protecting the LGBTQ community. Someone could sadly use this new law to discriminate against certain people.

The response to this law was pure outrage from many companies and organizations like Apple, who spoke against the law. Religious organizations such as Disciples of  The Christ publicly opposed it as well. Companies like GenCon that have been a part of the growth of Indiana’s economy for years are considering relocation. Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, only made things worse when he appeared on ABC's This Week and refused to answer a question on whether a hypothetical florist would be able to refuse service to gay customers. He later noted in The Wall Street Journal that he wouldn’t allow anyone to legally discriminate and that the law had been “grossly misconstrued” by the press. Pence, while still maintaining that the law is anything but discriminatory, is committed to clarifying it.

It would be interesting to see if this kind of institutional activism could extend to LGBTQ issues less popular than marriage equality, and what kind of impact that would have in the long run.

Sources consulted:

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