Hobby Lobby

Debate: Defending the RFRA in Indiana

When asked about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed and passed into law by Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, the owners of a small pizza shop, Memories Pizza, said that they think anyone can believe whatever they want, but they are a Christian establishment and wouldn’t be catering to gay weddings. In fact, the pizza shop has actually never catered to any weddings before. Now the small business has been forced to shut its doors doueto hatred, threats, and harassment from those who oppose the law. 

So, are the owners of the pizzeria intolerant because they do not want to participate in a gay wedding, or are the opponents of the RFRA law intolerant for forcing the business to shut down temporarily because of its hatred, threats and harassment? 

The opposition of the law has been shown by numerous celebrities, over forty companies, and even multiple state and local governments. They are showing opposition to the law by “boycotting Indiana” which has become a popular hash tag on Twitter. They are withdrawing from the state by cancelling business and travel to the whole state. According to the Washington Post, the company Angie’s List withdrew to expand its “Ford Building Project” until further notice, and the company Salesforce has cancelled programs that require its customers and employees to travel to Indiana. The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, signed an executive order prohibiting state funded travel to Indiana. New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, asked state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions to bar publicly funded travel to Indiana that isn’t essential. The band Wilco cancelled a show that was scheduled to play in Indianapolis. 

These are just some examples of the many actions that were taken to oppose the so-called “intolerance” of the RFRA law. However, are the critics of this law really showing tolerance? Is trying to shut down businesses and the whole state of Indiana because they passed a law that they disagreed with a “tolerant” thing to? What many Americans do not realize is that tolerance and diversity is a two-way street.

Many of the law’s critics do not fully understand the law. The law is not supposed to be used as an excuse to discriminate against gays or anyone for that matter. It is used to protect the citizens’ rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution to exercise religion and speech freely. What many of the law’s critics on the left also do not know is that this law mirrors the original RFRA that was signed and passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Clinton’s exact words when he first passed the law were, “Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historical role that people of faith have played in the history of this country, and the constitutional protections those that profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.”

This law has been challenged before in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case that was argued in front of the Supreme Court in 2013. The case was very similar to the controversy today. The Christian run Hobby Lobby Corporation refused to pay for the contraception that was included in the Obamacare mandate. They refused to cover contraceptives for their employees because they did not believe in contraceptives because of their Christian beliefs. They did not say that they would not allow their employees to use contraceptives they just were against covering them in their healthcare plans for their employees. Hobby Lobby ultimately won   the case because of the law that was passed by Clinton. 

This controversy is very similar. Clinton explained his law by saying, “What this law basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.” 

In other words, this law means that a Muslim-run institution should not have to serve pork or alcohol. A Jewish deli can only serve kosher meat if they choose. A gay couple could find a church to get married in but every church does not have to participate. A woman can get birth control or have an abortion but religions that are against such things to not have to condone it. So by this logic, the law does not make it legal for a Christian run pizzeria to discriminate against gays. It just means that they do not have to take part in their wedding if they believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  

Americans must think about what true tolerance is. The right to freedom of speech and religion does not only apply when it goes along with everyone else. True tolerance means tolerating people that are intolerant or that disagree. That is what true diversity is and freedom is. This is why the Supreme Court ruled on the side of religious freedom in the Hobby Lobby case. If this law is challenged, it will end just like the Hobby Lobby case did with the court’s ruling on the side of religious freedom. 

The opposing side of this debate will be published in the April 15 issue of The Outlook.

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