Religious freedom…Or not

Indiana’s new Act pushes buttons in LGBT+ community

Dirk Schnoes, Staff Writer


Gross, I know, but as many of us will be moving on into the “real world” soon, we’re just going to have to get used to hearing and knowing about the politics that go on around us. And we should, or else those politics are going to make some important decisions without us having a say.

I think we can all agree that our beloved America has made some pretty ridiculous laws in the past, and it’s unfortunate that more of these laws are being made. Worse, the people making them don’t want us to notice.

Just a week ago, Indiana passed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It’s the same name as the federal RFRA bill, and the politicians of Indiana would love for us to believe that this new law is exactly the same as the federal version.

However, Indiana’s contains two small statements not included in the federal law that make a big difference in the way businesses can behave, and these statements spell bad news for Indiana’s LGBT+ population.

The Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business the right to “the free exercise of religion.”

The federal RFRA doesn’t include this. Indiana’s version also contains a passage stating, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

The federal RFRA doesn’t say anything like this, either. In fact, only the Texas RFRA from 1999 has a similar passage.

As someone who isn’t a political science major, all of this political jargon-y nonsense doesn’t mean very much to me, but the politicians who’ve taken a look at it are far from happy, and for good reason.

In layman’s terms, this means all for-profit businesses now have “free exercise” rights to match those of individuals and churches, and can refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs.

Openly interpreted, this includes people of any ethnicity, people with disabilities, the poor, members of the LGBT+ community or anyone else a business decides it doesn’t want to serve.

I’m not sure if Indiana’s living under a rock, but a lot of people are not happy with this decision. Adrian Swartout, Chief Executive of Gen Con—the largest gaming convention in the country—has threatened to cancel the annual convention that’s held in Indiana in order to protect the con’s guests and employees from discrimination.

This would take approximately $50 million out of Indiana’s revenue for the year.


And let’s not forget what happened to Arizona last year.

Similar to what Indiana’s doing now, Arizona attempted to pass a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ customers. The law didn’t survive long, however, as Arizona’s economy took a nosedive and protests exploded across the state.

It took only two days for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill right off her desk.

Despite both of these, and many other examples of why this law is a terrible idea, there are those who believe that Indiana is acting with the constitution on this, and that business owners who utilize the new law are fully within their rights to do so.

“What I believe is, how–say you have a Christian organization who doesn’t agree with the whole gay marriage thing, and they don’t want to participate in the wedding.

I don’t think they should be forced to if they don’t want to, if they don’t see it as ethically right in their beliefs. That’s what I believe. I’m against the wholesale hatred, but neither should be forced to agree with the other,” Danny Baier, a junior at Wayne State College, said.

Baier claims to only partially agree with Indiana’s new law, stating that religious institutions shouldn’t be forced, but that business in general shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate.

Wayne State sophomore Emmaline Hare has less wiggle room in her opinion.

“I believe everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law. We’re not all going to get along in this day and age, but we should all try our best to get along, that’s grade school basics. It doesn’t matter what your belief system is, you should try to respect other people to the best that you can.

You can only take religious freedom so far before it becomes oppressive to someone else. You can have religion and you can have freedom, but only to a certain extent, no matter what you believe,” Hare said.

Regardless of what anyone believes, Indiana’s law threatens to open a dangerous door. Businesses are now allowed to turn away customers who their religions disagree with, but how are they going to sort out the people they don’t want in their businesses?

Are we all going to have to start sewing little symbols on our clothes to tell us apart like Jews during the Holocaust?

It’s scary to think about.

While I cross my fingers and hope that this law in Indiana is overturned as quickly as possible, I also have to worry that this law to could spread to other states.

Religion has always been a powerful driving force for humanity, and there’s nothing wrong with having a set of beliefs, but religion can also be very dangerous, and I, for one, really wish that the church and state were as separate here in America as they’re supposed to be.