Lately it seems I can’t say I’ve accomplished anything unless I’ve been called a statist, a progressive, an anti-Christian bigot, and a fascist prick, preferably all in the same day. But such is life when you dare to suggest that in 2015 we should stop trying to find excuses to eliminate our interaction with certain types of people.
And that’s exactly what Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was designed to do. Yes, it will also help a few minority religions perform observe their rituals and practices without interference. But it wasn’t written and passed the year after the cascade of marriage equality rulings, laws, and referenda in order to protect those few cases. No, its purpose is instead to protect the overwhelming majority (Christians) from having to interact with another minority – gays and lesbians.
Hilariously, while both its supporters and opponents admit that the act does just that (indirectly, through a new legal defense), the legislators and governor responsible for its passage and enactment stubbornly refuse to say so. But even when you get past the question of what the RFRA law actually does, is what it does even allowed? In Indiana, yes. In states without nondiscrimination acts, no.
And while Governor Pence and others responsible for the law have vowed to “fix” it, they killed LGBT NDA protections in the initial debate over the bill and have already done so this week in the post-enactment shitstorm. That’s how you know what the real purpose of the law is. If it was never meant to enable discrimination, they would have no problem passing an NDA that says so.
Except when Georgia was debating their own state RFRA recently and someone (a Republican no less) proposed an amendment that ensured it wouldn’t overrule local NDA ordinances, the bill’s sponsor killed the whole thing, saying allowing local LGBT protections to still govern would undermine its main purpose. QED, mic drop, and such.
There’s an even more fundamental problem with the debate around these laws and the claim to religious freedom itself, though, and the ubiquitous gay wedding cake demonstrates it well. What specific belief under what specific religious denomination is violated by someone who is in the cake baking business baking a cake for two women or two men getting married? I pride myself on being pretty familiar with most common religions, but I can’t think of a single one that condemns opening your business to people you don’t approve of (mostly because none of them actually include business guidelines). Providing a commercial service for someone is not an endorsement of them, nor even of the cause for which they request your service.
So if it’s not actual religious beliefs that drive the avoidance of LGBT inclusion, what could it be? Hmmmmmmm. I may have some ideas.
Conservatives keep claiming that without RFRAs, the fruits of their labor would be conscripted into participation in acts that violate their beliefs. But unless you are either officiating the ceremony or a member of the wedding party, you are only participating in commerce, not a marriage ceremony. Hell, even some people who attend weddings as guests and give the couple gifts don’t approve of the marriage; they’re just being nice. When did that become too much for Christians?
Lesbians aren’t going around the country forcing bakers to engage in sodomy, for fuck’s sake; they just want a nice dessert for their party. You don’t even have to deliver it to the Home Depot-themed, flannel wedding chapel if that would risk getting to close to even more sinners. You know, just like Jesus always avoided.
But what kind of horrific hellscape would we live in if businesses served everyone equally, and those with religious convictions used the opportunity of serving those they consider apostate or sinners to be a witness for their faith instead of a border patrol agent for it. What would Jesus do, indeed?