5 Things Christians Need to Know about the Controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Law

Amanda Casanova | Religion Today Contributing Writer | Thursday, April 02, 2015
5 Things Christians Need to Know about the Controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Law

5 Things Christians Need to Know about the Controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Law

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that could allow businesses to cite religious reasons for refusing service, is drawing criticism from political and business leaders. 


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law last week amid public outcry from opponents. Critics say the law will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. Pence has since said he will try to “fix” the law to better clarify the act.


1. What is included in the act?


The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) says the state cannot “substantially burden” a person from their religious beliefs. That means the law will keep the state from interfering in cases where people exercise their religious beliefs. Opponents of the act argue that the law would allow businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT customers. The law would take effect July 1.


In response, Pence has said he will clarify the law so businesses cannot discriminate in providing services.


"After much reflection and in consultation with leadership in the General Assembly, I've come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," Pence said Tuesday.


2. What’s the history of the act?


There are 19 states that have religious freedom laws. All are based on federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. They were also all enacted before gay marriage became legalized in most of the country. The signing of Indian’s act comes just after the state legalized gay marriage in October. Still, Indiana does not have a law that protects LGBT people from discrimination.


3. What are businesses and others saying about the law?


Many businesses and leaders have voiced outcry over the law. The CEO of Angie’s List, Bill Oesterle, said the company is putting the brakes on a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters. Apple CEO Tim Cook released a statement saying that the company was “disappointed” with the law. The president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, has hinted that the NCAA may relocate the Final Four from Indiana in coming events. The governor of Washington has banned official state travel to Indiana, and even Hillary Clinton said she was “sad” over the new law. 


4. What are Christians saying about the law?


Proponents of the law claim it would keep the state government from making people do things even though they may object due to religious reasons. For example, a business wouldn’t have to make a cake for a gay wedding or cater the reception. 


Indiana Right to Life said: “RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government.”


Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, said: “(Pence) was giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties."


5. How does the law affect the state’s image?


So far, about nine CEOs of Indiana’s largest employers have spoken against the law, some even threatening to cancel future plans in the state. Pence also said Tuesday the state has a “perception problem.”


"The things that have been said about our state have been at times deeply offensive to me,” Pence said.


Even though Indiana is not the only state to have a law like this, the Hoosier state is taking a hit from the public. Unlike the other laws, Indiana’s law seems to protect corporations.


"Unlike the federal and Florida RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), the Indiana one explicitly covers for-profit corporations," said Caroline Mala Corbin, a University of Miami constitutional law professor.



Photo courtesy: Thinkstock 


Publication date: April 2, 2015