Indiana State House (photo via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pence Makes Indiana the 20th State to Have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act


Indiana State House (photo via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Indiana State House (photo via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Tom Davies of the Associated Press writes:

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which easily passed both legislative chambers, would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people, businesses and associations to follow their religious beliefs.

A similar law was passed by Congress in 1993. Similar proposals have been introduced in about a dozen states in the wake of businesses and individuals being taken to court for not wanting to provide insurance for abortion-inducing products or servicing same-sex wedding activities out of religious beliefs.

Mr. Pence said this week he believed the measure “is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact.”

The law was immediately denounced by the Human Rights Campaign who labeled it as “dangerous” and “anti-LGBT.” However, even the Associated Press can see through that claim:

Supporters say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and 19 states have similar laws on the books.

However, the current political climate is far different than it was when most of those were approved because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.

Conservative groups say the Indiana measure merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.

“I think you will find that, if you do your homework in it, this law is not going to allow you to discriminate against anyone else or anyone’s rights in this country,” GOP Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said.

Clearly, gay people are not experiencing economic pogroms in these other 19 states, but this kind of advocate group pontificating is having an effect though in other states, like Georgia and Texas, where business leaders are signing on to oppose RFRA’s on the same specious HRC grounds, disproven by experience, that they hurt economic development. (One suspects these business leaders are trying to curry favor with the White House under the rules of crony capitalism, but that may only be my dark side coming out).

My bigger fear? These RFRA’s are not going to protect the bakers, the florists, the photographers, the bed and breakfast owners, or the Kelvin Cochrans.  The courts will weigh the burden on religious people and decide guaranteeing gay equality trumps religious liberty. They may protect the free exercise of religion in other ways, though, and are still well worth doing.

Maggie Gallagher is editor of

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

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