Indiana’s recently-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has the country in an uproar. What is meant to be a message of inclusion to all Hoosiers is instead being interpreted as anti-gay and is receiving criticism at a national level. In fact, there is no language in the bill that refers to sexual orientation. The bill simply affirms that the government may not do anything to infringe on a persons religious freedom. Indiana legislature plans to address this misinterpretation, protecting the furious LGBT community with an amendment to the law that will make it illegal to refuse service based on sexual orientation.
Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas, wasn’t about to make the same mistake. He refused to sign a similar bill recently passed by his state’s legislature. Hutchinson explained he would only sign it if changes were made and commented that these “are not ordinary times.”Â WalMart, the biggest corporation in Arkansas, advised Hutchinson to veto the bill and stated that if passed would undermine the state’s spirit of togetherness.
The fact that Apple CEO Tim Cook compared RFRA to segregation shows that many of those ranting about Indiana’s new law are confused about what the law means. It is not an excuse for discrimination, but rather a way to protect civil rights and allow people to believe what they want to believe. RFRA allows, for example, a Muslim butcher to refuse a customer asking him to cut up a pig (if the action would violate his religious beliefs).
Bill Clinton signed the first RFRA back in 1993 as a way to solidify America’s belief that religious freedom is a right all citizens should have. The coalition behind the bill was made up of democrats, republicans, and several religions. All agreed that everyone should be entitled to religious freedom. Several states passed their own versions of the law, but unfortunately Indiana Governor Mike Pence choose to sign at a time during which the fight for gay rights is at an all-time high. Because many Muslims and Christians feel that same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs, numerous protesters and reporters jumped to conclusions and assumed that preventing gay marriage was the goal of the bill. However, the exact opposite is true.