Congress shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion
Last week the residents of Indiana, through their elected representatives, joined 19 other states and the Federal Government by passing a law making it illegal for the state to pass any law that compels someone to violate their religion, without there being a compelling overriding reason. The premise behind the law is that it is necessary because the supreme court has ruled that the Federal law only applies to Federal government, and not to the states.
The law does NOT “legalize discrimination”. If anything, this is an ANTI-discrimination law, making it so that the state government cannot discriminate. The groups who are trying to say that it does are either purposely misrepresenting it, or are doing so through ignorance.
What is different or unique about Indiana’s law is that it expands the definition of a person to include individuals, organizations, and businesses. It is quite true that other versions of the law don’t explicitly say that, but the courts have already ruled that to be the legal situation, such as with the cases of Hobby Lobby or Notre Dame against the Affordable Care Act, so that really isn't something new.
As an individual this law means that I can put a cross or star of David on my door, and the state can’t pass a law saying that it is illegal. It means that if I am a practicing Muslim (or Amish) who wears a beard for religious purposes the state can’t make me shave it off in order to work for the state.
As an origination it means that I can’t be excluded from state grants or funding just because the organization is ALSO religious. While the big one here are funds for schools, it also means that if a church wants to put together a team to compete in a softball league organized by the city’s parks department they can’t be excluded or told that they can’t have a cross on their uniform.
As a business owner, what this means is that if I decide to put a nativity scene in my store window the state or city cannot pass a law preventing me from doing so. If I decide to wish my customers “Merry Christmas” I am free to do so without fear of it being banned. If someone does try to persecute me I can claim this law as a defense. It does NOT give me to right to refuse to serve someone solely based upon the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. Courts have already routinely ruled that there is a compelling and overriding state interest there.
The law also states that if someone is an idiot and does try to do something like that using this law as a justification and the person denied service sues, that the state can come in and join the case against the business. That’s a pretty big stick.
So what is the big deal about the law? Publicity. It seems like everyone wants to use this as a stepping stone to launch their own agenda, even if that means deliberately misrepresenting it in order to get air time.
Be better than that. Be informed. Read the law. Note that there is nothing in there that says that a business can discriminate. The first amendment to the US Constitution states that congress shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, this just restates that and extends the prohibition to the state level.
There are always going to be idiots and bigots. If a photographer feels so strongly that their religious views are offended by being there to document and solemnize a gay wedding, do you really want them there anyway? When they get to the “does anyone know why these two should not be married speak now” part, do you really want them stepping up and saying something, making a fool of themselves, and ruining the day? What will REALLY happen if ANY business tries to do something like that is that so many of their prospective customers, straight or gay, will be so offended that they won’t have enough business to keep the doors open, they go under, and disappear. That is free speech and the free market at work, and that is the American way.
And in that situation, what about that photographer’s rights? Do we as a community or state really have the right to forcibly compel such a person to be there? Do we have the right to force them to engage in creative work that violates their religious sensibilities, even if we don’t agree with them? Is that tolerance? That photographer has every right to be an idiot, let them be one.