This year’s NCAA tournament in Indianapolis had some extra drama as the media helped stir up national opposition to the state’s new RFRA law.
The Indiana Legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act similar to the laws on the books in 19 other states. Court rulings in 11 other states without RFRAs (including Michigan) give litigants with sincere religious beliefs a day in court (not necessarily a victory). The federal RFRA was signed by President Clinton in 1993 after a 97-3 vote in the U.S. Senate. These laws have been on the books for years with little fanfare. So why all the fuss?
It’s politically harder to repeal an old law no longer used much (because it works well!) than to pass a similar new one that may be unpopular. The reality of RFRAs, though, is that they give litigants a day in court and not necessarily a victory.
A changing political climate and the likely Supreme Court ruling mandating nationwide gay marriage in June has people of faith worried. As usual, both sides are talking past each other. One side is talking about discrimination and people being refused service at lunch counters, invoking the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The issue is marriage ceremonies and receptions
The real issue is not whether Chick-Fil-A can refuse service to gays (why would they want to?) even though its owner is on record as supporting marriage between one man and one woman. They probably have many LGBT employees. For sure they welcome gay and lesbian customers and do not discriminate against them.
No, this is about conscientious objectors being forced to participate in wedding ceremonies or receptions. They should not be forced to participate against their conscience, any more than a black, Jewish or Catholic printer should be forced to print racist, anti-Semitic, or anti-Catholic KKK literature if he chooses not to.
Florida bakery refuses to bake a cake
Since when is it hate speech to say “we do not support gay marriage?”
Should they not have the right to suggest their gay customers go elsewhere for a catered wedding reception? (This is different from refusing them service in the restaurant. Very few people, if any, are arguing that this should be legal.)
Alternatively, the Indiana pizzeria could supply pizzas with crosses on them if they were forced to, I suppose. And comply with the law.
Go Fund Me campaigns
There seems to be overwhelming popular support for traditional sincere religious views, with hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into the Indiana pizzeria (which has their Christian faith prominently displayed) when they had to close for a few days because of media attention and reportedly, even death threats.
In response, several other Go Fund Me campaigns have started to support LGBT causes. So both sides are arming up with donations.
Not just Christians, how about other religious minorities?
Should a Hindu be forced to grill tandoori chicken next to a shisk-kebob Muslim grilling beef next to a Catholic cooking Polish sausage on-site at a gay wedding reception in a Knights of Columbus (Roman Catholic) hall? What if that is some gay couple’s dream wedding reception? Without a RFRA, about the only thing that could be prevented is the K of C hall rental, at some embarrassment to the Catholic church.
Silence is golden – but an eerie silence
Why would someone wish to hire a vendor for their wedding reception or a wedding photographer who didn’t approve of their marriage? The answer is pretty simple: to silence dissent. This is happening all over the country.
After the Supreme Court’s likely ruling in June, without state RFRAs Jennifer Schoenrock, a 56-year-old deputy clerk in Waynesville, Mo., wife of a disabled veteran, mother of four, and grandmother of two, will be at risk of losing her job in Missouri because she wants to have a non-objecting colleague in her office sign the same-sex marriage certificates. She would have no objection to civil unions but has a religious objection to the redefinition of marriage.
Meanwhile, Barry Lynn at Americans United for Separation of Church and State and many others think she should be fired. Perhaps Barry Lynn is seeking to establish a state Church of Gay Dominance, as former atheist Marvin Olasky writes for WORLD magazine. He goes on to say,
“Happily, some gay rights advocates do want peace and not just victory. See Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, asking, “Should Mom-and-Pops That Forgo Gay Weddings Be Destroyed?” Also see Jonathan Turley’s Washington Post piece on how “Critics of Indiana’s religious freedom law are trying to have their cake and eat it, too.”
Why we need RFRAs
There should be conscience exceptions for participating in gay wedding receptions or ceremonies. This is a good starting point for a very specific RFRA.
Mrs. Schoenrock should not be fired. Filling out the forms to the occasional gay couple would be 0.1% of her job and not overburden her coworkers who could pick up the slack.
This is anti-religious bigotry, pure and simple. Freedom of conscience is the foundational American freedom.
Support from editorial pages
The Wall Street Journal noted the anti-religious sentiment has gone too far in its editorial The New Intolerance, subtitled “Indiana isn’t targeting gays. Liberals are targeting religion.” It goes on:
“In the increasingly bitter battle between religious liberty and the liberal political agenda, religion is losing. Witness the media and political wrath raining down upon Indiana because the state dared to pass an allegedly anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The question fair-minded Americans should ask before casting the first stone is who is really being intolerant.”
Business community hypocrisy
Normally businesses want to sell their products to everyone. But lately they have been taking sides, citing the need to recruit talented employees. A wide variety of companies said they would boycott travel to Indiana and limit expansion there if the RFRA passed.
As Apple’s CEO Tim Cook denounced Indiana based on a misinterpretation of its new law. However, he recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and plans to expand Apple’s business there. In the UAE, homosexuality is outlawed and can be punishable by death. Seems like for him, the financial bottom line and deceptive interpretation of the proposed law outweighs moral principles of fair play.
Supreme Court to rule in June
Oral arguments begin before the U.S. Supreme Court April 28, and many briefs have been filed on both sides of the gay marriage issue.
Most news articles are one-sided in favor of gay marriage. I had to search to find out if any conservative groups were still supporting keeping traditional marriage laws. Here’s a legal brief filed in support of maintaining traditional marriage laws.
Interestingly, no top law firms have filed briefs defending traditional marriage, and one prominent lawyer resigned his position at a top firm to protest the injustice of both sides not being represented in court.
Electioneering by the media?
Some wonder whether this is just another attempt to clear the Republican field of conservative candidates so the most moderate one comes out on top. This has happened in more than one recent election. Pushing the hot-button social issues is one way to do it. Here’s a liberal take on ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos’ questioning of Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Compare this with a conservative point of view with two Associated Press writers contributing to the article.
Eventually Governor Mike Pence did back down, however.
Turning the tables on hostile questions
Perhaps a better approach would be that of Senator Rand Paul, when questioned about his pro-life position. He turned the tables on the questioner, challenging how extreme the Democratic Party’s position is on abortion: they support the right of a woman to take the life of her unborn child up till the time it is born. For any reason.
Here is DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schulz’s response, and here is a balanced analysis of the media double standard of this old social issue from Mollie Hemingway. She details abortion-rights allies in the media stepping up their attacks on Rand Paul.
71 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, support at least some restrictions on abortion. So the Democratic Party platform is the extreme position. Hillary Clinton should be asked whether she supports this, just like Pence and Paul were grilled on their positions.
A good strategy
Rand Paul’s strategy is a good one: turn the tables on the media. Conservatives should fight back against the unfair representation of their views on social issues, and focus on the issues voters care about: foreign policy and national security, economic growth and jobs.
It may take a courageous moderate Republican governor to sign a new RFRA law protecting the rights of religious conscientious objectors to participating in gay marriage ceremonies and receptions. Perhaps Governor Snyder will reconsider his threatened veto if the right bill is placed on his desk. It would put him higher on the list for a running mate for whomever the Republicans pick as their candidate.
After the firestorm of controversy (Hoosier Hysteria used to refer only to the state basketball tournament), Gov. Mike Pence signed a revised RFRA law. Some say the law did not need revision, and the revised law doesn’t protect religious rights of conscientious objectors.
And some gay rights advocates think the Indiana law should be repealed entirely. Perhaps the liberal governor of Connecticut should repeal his state’s own law or some Congressional Democrats lead the charge on repealing the federal RFRA. Let’s see how well that plays with voters. (It’s harder to repeal an existing law that has worked well for many years than to block a new one with alarmist rhetoric.)
The culture war continues unabated and probably will for the next several years, unless the LGBT lobby sues for peace after their expected Supreme Court victory in June. If they continue to fight to suppress the legitimate rights of conscientious objectors, it will be as long a war as the abortion-rights vs. pro-life war.