The feigned uproar over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is amazing to me. The media and certainly liberal activists are being dishonest about what it actually does.

First people seem to believe that Indiana is the only state to have such a thing.  No, 30 states have either RFRA laws or RFRA protections via the courts.  See this map from the 1st Amendment Partnership below:



Second, RFRA does not allow discrimination.  What I see circulating around in the media and the liberal activists they quote is speculation like this:

  • Restaurants will not seat homosexuals if the owners do not like them.
  • Some medical practitioners will not treat homosexuals.
  • Homosexuals can be denied a driver’s license!
  • Landlords can deny housing to homosexuals because they hate them.

There are already laws that deal with much of this AND the language of RFRA does not say anything of the sort.

Three questions are asked during any lawsuit brought under RFRA.

1. Does the individual have a sincere belief that is being burdened substantially?

  • If the answer is no the individual loses, and the case is closed.
  • If the answer is yes the case moves forward.

 2. Does the government have a compelling interest (health or safety) to interfere?

  • If the answer is no the individual wins, case closed.
  • If the answer is yes the case moves forward.

3. Is there a reasonable alternative to serve the public interest?

  • If the answer is no the individual loses, case closed.
  • If yes the individual wins, case closed.

As the 1st Amendment Partnership puts it RFRA does not guarantee that the religious argument will prevail, but it does guarantee it will at least see its day in court.  It places a check on government’s use of power against those of religious faith.

So RFRA would not protect say child abuse, refusing homosexuals medical treatment or housing, but it could provide relief in these circumstances:

  • They owned a wedding chapel and declined to host a gay wedding.
  • They owned a bakery and declined the business of baking a cake for a gay wedding.
  • They owned a florist and chose not to do the floral arrangements for a gay wedding.
  • They had a photography business and chose not to photograph a gay wedding.

We’ve seen places close as a result of legal sanctions, have to pay settlements and generally lose business as a result.

This bill does provide protection for people of faith who don’t want to be legally compelled into doing something that is contrary to their faith.  Notice the examples above?  They are not about denying service to gay people.  They are about people not wanting to participate in a gay wedding.

Memories Pizza in Walkerton, IN was the one business that the media could find who did say they would deny catering a gay wedding (who would have a pizza place cater their wedding?) even said they would not deny serving homosexuals in general.  I’m not sure why they offered that opinion prior to being placed in that situation.  The owner is closing up shop, at least for a time, because of threats that they have received.  How tolerant.

Yet none of the talk is about that, but these examples of what could happen are hypothetical because it isn’t happening.  When Brian Myers and I spoke with Dick and Betty Odgaard, the owners of Gortz Haus in Grimes, IA, who had a complaint filed against them for refusing to rent out their facilities for a gay wedding they said they had no problems serving homosexuals. They decided to get out of the wedding business all together.

RFRA would provide some protection for people like the Odgaards.  Which is absolutely reasonable.  Opponents of this bill need to actually argue about why folks like the Odgaards are not worthy of protection and why they must be compelled to participate in an activity that would violate their religious conscience instead of trumping up hypothetical situations that no one has provided any evidence of actually happening.

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