Discrimination Against Gay People in Indiana?

Indiana's law does not legalize discrimination against anyone.

Critics allege that this law allows citizens to “discriminate” against gay people. The accusation is completely misinformed, and the media have played a big part in the dissemination of ignorance about what this law actually does and doesn’t do. I won’t rehash the law here, but I will direct you to Joe Carter’s helpful explainer as well as that of John McCormack who puts the Indiana law side-by-side with the nearly identical federal law which was signed into law by Pres. Clinton in 1993.

 

I applaud Indiana Governor Mike Pence for taking a courageous stand in defense of our first freedom—religious liberty. Gov. Pence has been on the hot-seat ever since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into Indiana law last week. Not only did he sign the bill into law, but he also had the moxie to go on national television to defend the law in the face of scurrilously unfair criticism (see video above).

Critics allege that this law allows citizens to “discriminate” against gay people. The accusation is completely misinformed, and the media have played a big part in the dissemination of ignorance about what this law actually does and doesn’t do. I won’t rehash the law here, but I will direct you to Joe Carter’s helpful explainer as well as that of John McCormack who puts the Indiana law side-by-side with the nearly identical federal law which was signed into law by Pres. Clinton in 1993.

The law does not in fact legalize discrimination against anyone. Nevertheless, it has been misrepresented as if it does. Nevermind the fact that it’s been a federal law for over 20 years. Nevermind the fact that 19 other states have passes RFRA’s as well.Critics are denouncing the Indiana law as if it were some new departure in discrimination. But nothing could be further from the truth.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock is a supporter of gay marriage, and yet he supports Indiana’s RFRA. Why? Because the law has nothing to do with discriminating against gay people but with defending religious liberty. Laylock explains:

So what kinds of cases are RFRAs really about? They are about churches feeding the homeless; sometimes the city or the neighbors object. They are about Muslim women wearing scarfs or veils. They are about Amish buggies. They are about Sabbath observers. They are about church bells. They are about all the unexpected ways in which a great diversity of religious practices come into conflict with a great diversity of laws and regulations. And usually, the government wins. These laws have been under enforced, not over enforced.

So if these RFRA’s are not really about discriminating against LGBT people, then why are some people claiming that they are? I imagine that some people are just misinformed. Others likely know better but are just lying. Laylock says there may be a more sinister motive:

Most of the activists in this fight, on both sides, want liberty and justice only for their side. They want to crush the other side.

Laylock’s piece is an absolute must-read, and you can do so here.

[Editor’s note: Some of the original URLs (links) referenced in this article are no longer valid, so the links have been removed.]

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.