Indiana Religious Freedom Law Causes National Uproar
April 1, 2015By Tiffani Knowles

Indiana’s new religious freedom law intended to protect the religious liberties of its residents has been deemed discriminatory by celebrities, activists and LGBT advocates across the country.


Critics say the law, which was passed last Thursday, could allow businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.


However, Indiana’s new law - which Gov. Mike Pence says mirrors the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by President Bill Clinton into law in 1993 -was intended to protect religions like that of practicing Native Americans to be free from government encroachment. It states that the government cannot "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow their religious beliefs, unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden or do so in the least restrictive way.


Native Americans, who were once forced out of Indiana through federal expansion projects,  have returned to live and practice actively with in Indiana today. They have vibrant cultures, traditions, and languages and religions where sacred land is used for ceremony. This law protects the rights of Native Americans to use that land.


It would also give Christian ministers the freedom to deny gay couples the right to use their church for same-sex marriage ceremonies or would allow a gay photographer to deny services to an organization who discriminates against the LGBT community.


Pence said he stands by the law and there was never any intent to create a "license to discriminate….[and will] clarify that in the days ahead, and we'll fix this and move forward."  


Pence held a press conference in Indianapolis on March 31 calling for legislation on his desk "before the end of this week" that would make clear the law does not allow businesses "to deny services to anyone." 


Business and tech leaders has also expressed concern that the law would affect their job hiring. They claim that it will hurt their ability to recruit talent because job seekers may worry about discrimination.


Here are some of the sanctions and bans that institutions have put in place to protest Indiana’s new law:


  • Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle said his company is halting plans for a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters because of his opposition with the religious freedom law.
  • Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray are both banning government-funded travel to the state of Indiana.
  • The NCAA, whose headquarters is in Indianapolis, is concerned and former NBA player Charles Barkley is moving that games like the Final Four Basketball Tournament - which will happen at the Lucas Oil Stadium there on April 4 – should not be played there.


But Indiana is not the first state in the union with this kind of legislation.


There are 15 other states that have already introduced this law. Arkansas is the next state in line and Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas - facing a backlash from businesses and gay rights advocates – today called on state lawmakers to either recall or amend legislation billed as a religious freedom measure.


“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” said Hutchinson. “But these are not ordinary times.”


However it stands to reason, if people are boycotting Indiana, what about Kentucky, Illinois, Connecticut, Idaho, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama and the other states with the same law?


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