Indiana Governor Mike Pence has been shaken by the storm of protest the state’s new religious freedom bill has generated over the last few days. The media coverage has been blistering. Twitter was a storm of humiliation. And, most serious for Pence and his supporters, corporations started to grumble and cancel business and make statements formal in opposition to the law.
Pence went from stumbling defiance on a national Sunday morning television talk show to shocked admission that the state should do something about the “perception problem” that arose when it became clear to citizens across the land that Indiana’s statutes no longer protected gay people (and everyone else) from discrimination. Pence has since backed an amendment that would guard against that kind of discrimination.
Still, many conservatives who support the law continue to argue some version of the idea that one person’s discrimination is another person’s religious liberty, so we’ll just have to live with clashing interpretations. They also keep repeating the line that the law is just like other religious liberty laws that have been passed around the country. But that’s not true. It’s a different bill with a different purpose passed in the wake of the legalization of gay marriage in Indiana.
As Garrett Epps puts it at the Atlantic:
[blockquote]This law has been carefully written to make clear that 1) businesses can use it against 2) civil-rights suits brought by individuals.
Being required to serve those we dislike is a painful price to pay for the privilege of running a business; but the pain exclusion inflicts on its victims is far worse.
Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people.
Supporters of the bill don’t want to concede or believe that this is true. They don’t want to concede or believe that this bill is different and that what makes it different is what makes it unacceptable.
Yet, their defense of the bill suggests they know what makes it different and wrong.
Here is CitizenLink, the political arm of evangelical empire Focus on the Family, with an action alert posted to supporters on Thursday. It demonstrates that CitizenLink and the thousands of Focus on the Family fans subscribed to their email list support the bill precisely because it gives businesses the right to refuse to serve certain classes of people.
[blockquote]This morning, legislative leaders released the language of their so-called “fix” of the religious freedom law – a law that has been proven sound in 19 other states and needs no correction.
Incredibly, the new language actually throws the religious freedom of many Hoosiers under the bus. For example:
…The Christian florist who declines to participate in celebrating a same-sex wedding ceremony (as happened in Washington State)
The baker who declines to bake a cake with a message deriding same-sex marriage (as happened in Colorado, showing that these issues cut both ways)
Restrictions on freedom of this sort are happening around the nation and will inevitably come to Indiana if this bill becomes law…
What can you do? Please contact Gov. Mike Pence… and urge him to veto the bill and protect religious liberty for ALL Hoosiers.[/blockquote]
It’s worth pointing out again (and again based on the level of talk radio confusion) that discrimination is not about businesses refusing to serve any individual they want to refuse to serve. Businesses are only barred from refusing to serve classes of people based on who they are. You can refuse to serve a shady Muslim man. You can’t refuse to serve all Muslim people because you think all Muslim people are shady. You can’t refuse to serve all old people or disabled people or Irish people. You can’t refuse to serve all gay people, either, because that’s discrimination.