Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Religion and Freedom: What's the Fuss?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been in the news lately. The legislation, which proponents say is modeled on the federal RFRA and the 20+ states that have passed similar laws, has sailed through the Indiana General Assembly and will soon be on Governor Mike Pence's desk for him to sign, veto, or do nothing (where it automatically becomes law).

Proponents say that RFRA in Indiana is necessary so that religious organizations and organizations and businesses owned and operated by people of faith won't be forced to do something against their truly held tenants. Pundits have criticized the opponents of RFRA saying that the stories of hardship are exaggerated.

Just like the marriage amendment that was debated last year, there is a whole host of businesses and organizations that have come out against RFRA. The latest is Gen Con, who produced an open letter to Governor Pence saying that signing this into law may cause them to reconsider holding the annual convention in Indianapolis. Several faith based organizations have protested against it as well.

I think the debate surrounding RFRA (which I'm against because I think it does nothing in terms of legislation or restoring rights) is missing one thing from the proponents.

To their credit, proponents of RFRA have been very careful to not use examples of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. They've been using religious universities that can still obtain state and federal grants and other situations.

The question that I haven't heard proponents answer is that RFRA has been a known quantity on the federal and state level for around two decades. Why is this law necessary now when it hasn't been in the previously several years? Why now in the first legislative session after same-sex marriage is legal in Indiana?

To me, that is a concern that this specific proposal has something more sinister inside.

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