At a time when florists are being sued into oblivion for refusing to bend their religious convictions, it is encouraging to see lawmakers stand up for the First Amendment. Such is the case in Indianapolis, where the Indiana State Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit any state laws that would pit business owners against their own religion. Mirroring the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, proponents hope the bill will guarantee state entrepreneurs their federally-recognized religious rights.
The bill is controversial, of course, and support has fallen largely along party lines. Democrats want nothing to do with it, claiming that it provides Indiana business owners with a “license to discriminate.” They fear that businesses will begin refusing service to same-sex couples in the wake of the state’s new gay marriage laws. Republicans say this isn’t the case. Then again, as several high-profile cases have shown, not everyone agrees on the definition of “discrimination.”
“This bill is aimed at same-sex couples,” said Democrat State Senator Karen Tallian. She and other Democrats believe that businesses will begin denying service to gay couples, Jews, women, Catholics, and everyone else they don’t happen to like. “What we’re doing here is to extend the ability for this to turn into a big discrimination bill.”
While opponents act as though the bill is something new and extreme from state conservatives, the fact is that it would follow 19 other states in re-affirming adherence to federal law. With the First Amendment under fire in many cases, the time is right for states to assert themselves against the liberal agenda. It’s not just about same-sex marriage. It’s about protecting the rights and liberties guaranteed to all Americans under the U.S. Constitution.
Indiana has a particularly-strong stake in the fight, seeing as how it is home to the craft giant Hobby Lobby. Because Hobby Lobby was not protected by state law, they were forced to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to retain their right to conscience. Kudos to Indiana Republicans who are standing against the feminist agenda that has wreaked so much havoc in so many other areas of the country.
Anti-discrimination laws have been around for as long as many young Americans have been alive. When it comes to local and state government – publicly funded institutions – these laws are indispensable and just. That said, forcing private business owners to break their conscience and go against their religion just to satisfy minorities is against the spirit and letter of the Bill of Rights. They have no place in a country that prides itself on freedom. It should be up to the free market to decide which businesses succeed or fail. If a florist wants to deny service to a gay couple, he should be permitted to do so. If there is a backlash – a boycott that drives that florist out of business – then all is well with the world. Let people vote with their cash.
When you force people to abide by discrimination laws, you will inevitably discriminate against someone else. The only solution is to protect freedom.