Politics & Policy

Indiana’s RFRA: Eight Theses

On “discrimination,” Jim Crow, etc.

Pertaining to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a few things that are not being said that need to be said:

1. There is no good reason for any business, let’s say a hamburger stand for example, to deny a gay man or a gay couple the right to patronize the establishment. Let’s be clear: If there’s evidence of this — of a business owner denying someone service based on his being and not his conduct — the owner of said business should be held liable.

2. A wedding vendor who chooses not to service a same-sex wedding is not discriminating against a person’s being. Instead, the vendor believes that material cooperation in a particular event encroaches on his conscience.

3. To allege that RFRA incites rampant discrimination on the level of Jim Crow–era segregation ignores a fundamental distinction: Jim Crow segregation was state-sponsored discrimination. Regardless of what opinion a shopkeeper or a business owner had toward racial minorities, the law required him to discriminate. To give relief to a particular wedding vendor who feels uncomfortable servicing a gay wedding isn’t in any way comparable to state-sponsored discrimination.

RELATED: Is Indiana Protecting Discrimination?

4. The gay community needs to realize that, despite its current gains and likely future gains, not everyone in America — such as evangelical Christians — is equally basking in the glories of the gay marriage. Millions of Americans believe that redefining marriage will have real and negative consequences down the road. Give dissenters space to dissent, because . . . that’s American.

5. It’s rather sad that the LGBT community has worked itself up into a fit while overlooking two important facts: 1) It was already hypothetically legal to discriminate in these jurisdictions even before RFRA was passed; and 2) little if any such discrimination actually occurred. And regarding that, see thesis #1.

6. To require a wedding vendor to service a same-sex wedding is not eliminating discrimination against the gay couple. It’s coercing the wedding vendor. Think of an alternative situation where a gay baker is required to bake dessert cakes for a pro-marriage rally sponsored by a conservative group. Surely we should acknowledge that a person should not be required to provide a good or service for an event premised on views that the baker finds objectionable. Do you really want to live in a country where supposedly free businesses are required to use their goods and services against their will?

EDITORIAL: Liberals Against Religious Liberty in Indiana

7. It’s rather sad that we’ve become so litigious over the issue of gay rights that we can’t recognize a viable alternative to the hysterics brought on by the stupefying aura of liberalism: If a wedding vendor doesn’t feel comfortable providing a good or service for your gay wedding, be an adult and let the glories of free enterprise allow you to take your money elsewhere.

8. Realize that RFRA is just a balancing test. It provides no sure footing for religion to do whatever religion wants. The government should and forever must strike the right balance between compelling governmental interests and religious freedom.

Take a deep breath, America. Everything will be okay.

— Andrew T. Walker works for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

editor’s noteThis article has been amended since its initial publication.

Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.


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