Indiana religious liberty law draws criticism, protests

by Andrew Cullen correspondent

In the wake of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Indiana, the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has sparked a nationwide debate over its legality.

On March 26, Governor Mike Pence signed the RFRA in an effort to protect the religious freedoms of religious minorities and businesses. Specifically, the law will protect religious minorities and businesses from federal and state laws that might force them to violate their faith.

Adèle Auxier Keim, counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said, “We don’t let whatever bureaucrats happened to be in power decide who gets religious liberty.”

Although former President Bill Clinton signed a federal RFRA into law in 1993, Indiana became the twentieth state to pass a state version of the law. Even Illinois has a similar RFRA that then-state-senator Barack Obama voted for.

Despite the fact that 19 other states have passed similar laws, Indiana has been in the spotlight of criticism. Critics of the new law fear that it will encourage and even “legalize” discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

On March 28, more than 2,000 people gathered at the Indiana State Capitol to protest the “discriminatory” bill, while celebrity George Takei organized a #BoycottIndiana campaign.

However, Indiana government officials were not the only people receiving criticism. Kevin and Crystal O’Connor, Christian owners of Memories Pizzeria in Walkerton, Ind. have had to absorb much of the criticism after Kevin O’Connor’s statement that the pizzeria would not cater gay weddings.

Girl’s high school golf coach Jess Dooley tweeted, “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w [sic] me? Agree with #FreedomofReligionBill? ‘That’s a lifestyle they CHOOSE’ Ignorant.”

The O’Connors also received numerous death threats forcing them to close the pizzeria temporarily for safety reasons.

Realizing that his statement had been taken completely out of context, O’Connor clarified his statement. “I don’t have a problem with gay people. I do not condone gay marriage and that’s what I said,” O’Connor explained. “I don’t turn anybody away from the store. I don’t have a problem with gay people. I just don’t condone the marriage.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, pointed out that the dispute runs much deeper than one law. The controversy surrounding Indiana’s RFRA is the overflow of a deeper moral issue: whether or not same-sex marriage is a sin and the extent to which religious freedom and the right to sexual preference can coincide.

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