Monday, March 30, 2015

Religious freedom... What the hell?

Let's face it, Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is not the first of its kind in the United States but, it is getting a log of attention that other RFRA's haven't received.  This type of legislation has even been a Federal Law since 1993 (signed by Bill Clinton), and 19 other states have similar laws on their books.  

Kentucky passed such a law in 2013.  The law is "supposed" to protect religious organizations from government laws & regulations that would make it difficult for them to practice their beliefs.  Prior to the passage of the law, for example, the state required (for safety concerns) the Amish in Western Kentucky to put large orange triangles on the back of their buggies.  The Amish said this practice went against their beliefs, so some of the Amish buggy drivers were put in jail for refusing to comply. 
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This is what an RFRA law is "supposed" to do... it is supposed to protect religious freedoms from being burdened by the government.   Many speculate that such a law has a hidden agenda that would grant the right to provide goods and services to customers who most align with their religious values, and deny services to those who don't (ahem... the LGBT** community - even though there are many LGBT people who are also Christians).  This may not be a stretch, but as of yet, in Kentucky, there have been few (if any) lawsuits between private citizens and businesses over such discrimination.  The only case I am aware of occurred prior to the state RFRA passage, and was based on a local fairness ordinance.  Correct me if I am wrong... I know you will.

So, why is Indiana's law the final straw against a "legislated right to discriminate" when there have been so many other laws already in place?

Well... because the politicians in Indiana added a little extra teeth to their bill that would make it very possible for people to discriminate openly against one another and be protected under "religious freedom."   Judd Legum, writer for Think Progress, illustrates this nicely, "There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9.  Under that section, a "person" (which under the law included not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose "exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened" can use the law as "a claim or defense... regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding."

People (as widely defined by law) will now have the right to not only profile others and make business decisions based on a very subjective set of criteria, but they also have the right to claim that serving anyone who violates their religious beliefs is a "burden".

My head might explode!  I can hardly get my mind around this.  Religions (with somes exceptions) have "burdened" the shit out of MILLIONS of people for THOUSANDS of years and now they are passing laws to make this legal??  


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