Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indiana Passes Religious Freedom Bill

           Indiana recently passed what is being referred to as a “religious freedom bill”. This bill ensures business organization owners that they will not have to go against their religious beliefs in order to help certain customers, such as the cake store owner who refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. A more recent case such as this came about recently involving a videography business that refused to film a wedding for a same-sex couple. Are these business owners required by law to provide their services if it means going against their religious beliefs? This bill says no, they do not have to because their religious rights are protected.

            The main issue with the bill passing is that many believe it will simply be used as a means to justify discrimination against homosexual individuals and couples. Those who are in favor of passing the bill deny this claim, but during a time when so many cases similar to the ones listed above have occurred, and as the Sup
reme Court is getting closer to legalizing same-sex marriage, it seems questionable what the true intent is. This raises the issue of whether private companies should be legally allowed to discriminate against potential customers based on his or her own religious beliefs.

            I think the bill is constitutional seeing as it is facially neutral and does not directly target any specific group of people. However, I think upon further inspection and once the bill is in action, it is extremely discriminatory in nature. Business owners should be able to look beyond their own beliefs because they are offering goods to the public and should not be able to pick and choose their customers. However, this bill would legally allow them to do so. Some would argue that because it is a private company that the owners should be allowed to choose who they provide services for, especially in situations where the customers could find another company to bake a cake or film a wedding. I think this should not be the case because business owners should not be legally allowed to discriminate.

            With this bill becoming a law, there will without a doubt be higher numbers of the LGBTQ community, as well as others, being turned away for services. My main issue with this bill is that it has no boundaries, meaning anyone could be discriminated against with the owner claiming that helping them would go against their beliefs, regardless of whether or not that is actually true. This could even end up extending to a surgeon who does not want to perform surgery on someone because of his or her religious beliefs. This highlights a life or death situation, but this bill would make it legal for said surgeon to turn the patient away, and I do not think this should be allowed.
            It is true that business owners have their own religious beliefs, but I think by starting a business and offering one’s services to the public you then somewhat put aside your personal beliefs to have a successful company. Although this bill protects business owner’s religious rights, it consequently takes away the rights of those who will be discriminated against. America’s roots are in protecting the minority and ensuring that everyone has equal rights, and I think by passing this bill it is hindering a large population of people who have already been targeted for quite some time.  Although facially neutral, this bill is legalizing any and all discrimination, and it will lead to a slippery slope of private business owners stretching the bill as far as it can go to deny services to anyone they choose. The bill should not be passed.

            What do you think? Do the religious rights of business owners outweigh the rights of customers to not be discriminated against? Should the bill become law?


Mackenzie Y said...

I think that the passing of this bill will definitely prove to be controversial in cases within the state once it goes into action. I agree with the author that business owners should be able to look beyond their own beliefs to provide a public good as well. I can see how this bill will be seen by some as a way to be legally allowed to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ. The bill definitely takes away rights of those who will be discriminated against and will provide a slippery slope in the future for the state as well as other states looking to pass similar bills.

Sam Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Cohen said...

I wrote a blogpost earlier in the semester about the possibility of this bill passing, so it is upsetting to see that this bill actually passed. While I understand the purpose of the bill and the arguments made by the religious business owners who do not believe they should serve people with sexual interests they disagree with, the problem is exactly that. The government is allowing a company, even if it's a private one, to discriminate against people not because of anything criminal or mean they did and not because of anything having to do with the business itself but because their private interests are frowned upon. The government should really have considered using strict scrutiny in this case, for now the private sphere and public sphere are being intertwined and the personal, private lives of people are being taken into account in the business-realm. Protecting religion is certainly a valid state interest, but protecting all citizens so that their private lives don't affect their well-beings in public, whether it be in the economic, political, social, or cultural sector, overrides that interest.

This situation kind of reminds me in some ways as the now-outlawed Don't Ask Don't Tell rule, where soldiers could not ask if others were homosexual and homosexuals could not admit to being gay. The government ended up outlawing that ridiculous rule, but now it is paradoxically telling those who are not heterosexual in Indiana that if they want to be served by certain businesses, they must not show any signs of their sexual preference. The fact that government is backtracking and enforcing similarly outlawed policies is frustrating and upsetting. This law is not only discriminatory but unconstitutional in its threat to equality and privacy (which is never stated in the Constitution but certainly referred to at many points).

Trevor T said...

This bill represents movement in the wrong direction towards creating a more inclusive and enlightened national stance on those who are different from the majority. The LGBTQ community has been fighting a long uphill battle to secure the basic human rights they deserve and this bill shows Indiana's ignorance towards equality of another group of humans. Despite the social atrocity, the bill seeks to protect the religious freedom of business owners. I believe that if a business opens its doors to the public they should be expected to serve the public. I believe this bill is one that appears to be neutral but in reality the people most impacted are minorities and especially the LGBTQ community. In what other practical situation would a business owner dismiss a customer due to their religious beliefs? This would cause a polarization of the community where religiously affiliated store owners would be able to discriminate anyone that is not like them due to religious justification. What if someone claimed their religion was against african americans? They would then be covered by this bill to deny service to african americans due to their religious beliefs. I believe this bill allows plenty of room for a slippery slope and should not have been passed.

Will P. said...

I believe that the true intention of this bill is lost in its real world application. At face value, this bill seems to attempt to protect business owners right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. However, by exercising their beliefs, they could potentially discriminate upon, and impede against the rights of other citizens. Furthermore, it surprises me from an economic perspective, that a business owner would want to refuse service to a customer. Economically, a private business should seek profit, regardless of a customers background. The only reason to exercise this bill would be for a directly discriminatory purpose and as such, i am disappointed that it was passed

Emily C. said...

I guess I will be the one to take the unpopular stance with regards to the Religious Freedom Bill. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise" of religion, and I believe that this law protects the statement that is promised in the First Amendment. Private-business owners should have the right to determine whom they want to serve as customers based on religious beliefs, and despite the fact that it might be economically unsound, it is a constitutional right that must be protected.

Surgeons, on the other hand, should not have this right. Libby made the connection between a private-business owner and a surgeon, but I do not think it is a useful comparison as a surgeon takes an oath pledging to prevent disease and aid all humans when he can, whereas a business owner is operating within a private sphere. A business owner is in sole control of his private operations and endeavors, but a surgeon is responsible to the community as a whole.

I believe that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act constitutionally protects the right of individuals to act upon their religious beliefs.

Nneoma I. said...

This bill is undeniably unconstitutional. I agree with the author, If someone chooses to sell public goods, it is their obligation to put aside their different views and serve everyone equally. A law that legitimizes discrimination scares me because it keeps religious individuals protected at the cost of those discriminated. Because of this bill, LGBT individuals in Indiana will not have the same protection or accessibility to public goods as everyone else. Theoretically, what if a religion was against those with brown eyes? Or what if the KKK owned a store but refused all service from blacks. Can a store refuse service to all those who appear in that way? These bill is constitutional and is discriminatory by nature.