Saturday, March 28, 2015

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Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Opinion by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageMiley Cyrus is against it.
Ashton Kutcher is against it.
George Takei (Sulu!) is against it.

With such intellectual heavyweights against it, whatever it is MUST BE BAD (right?)  Because hollywood stars know best!

We’ve come to an interesting / sad / jumped the shark place in civil rights in the United States. 

It’s a well understood principle of civil rights that no one should be denied service by any business due to the color of their skin, ethnicity, national origin, age, etc.

Now the gender-confused community came along and said we have to add gender preference to that list, which most such laws did.  And that’s perfectly reasonable, though of course the question becomes how would anyone know one’s gender preference unless one enters establishments and performs private acts in public? 

Oh you’re so ignorant Akiva.  First, such things come out in conversation sometimes, and people don’t want to be in fear of being discriminated against. (Ok, I agree with that.)  But that’s not enough, people want to share their (personal) preference status, to flaunt it if you will, and not accept that this may bother others.

Furthering that last point, there’s been a number of situations in the past few years where small businesses, owned and operated by religious people (almost exclusively by religiously observant Xians), have been faced with gender-confused customers demanding that they be provided services which violate the religious beliefs of the owner/operators.

This actually is a serious and tricky societal conflict.  We don’t want people discriminated against, and it would be exceptionally difficult to differentiate between someone discriminating due to a valid religious belief and someone just harboring hate filled beliefs.  Let’s take a look at a few possible examples:

- A catering and events hall, which generally holds Xian related events though also family events, is requested to be rented for a same-gender wedding.

- A small tuxedo rental company, owned by very strict Muslims from Saudi Arabia, is requested to outfit and rent tuxedos for a Jewish bar mitzvah celebration.

- A small wedding cake bakery, owned by religious Hindus who immigrated from India, is requested to bake wedding cakes for a Pakistani Muslim wedding.

- A private wedding cake bakery, owned by strictly observant Xians, is requested to bake a large wedding cake for a same-gender wedding.

- A wedding photographer in a same-gender relationship is requested to photograph a wedding at the Westboro Baptist church (a virulently anti-gay congregation).

- A Jewish carpenter is requested to provide prayer podiums (a bimah) as alters for a Wiccan facility.

The conflict for the owner/operators over the past few years has been to either uphold their religious principles and not offer service, and be fined or closed down for discrimination, or to violate their religious principles to avoid losing their business.

Indiana has decided that after the pendulum has swung fully to the customer, who can demand anything regardless of whether this violates the owners religious principles, that they would write a law to allow the owners to not offer service if this doesn’t overly burden the customers wanting service (which would probably mean if there were other options, it would be ok, if not then the government could force the business to accommodate.)

Since DETAILS MATTER, here is the actual text of the law:

A. A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability (meaning rules or laws that do not specifically target religion, such as needing a permit for use of a park).

B. A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

   (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;and

   (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest

C. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.

That’s it.  (Text of Indiana law here.) Oh there’s a lot more details about how people are enabled to defend themselves or sue if this happens.

The same gender community, represented by the famous intellectual Hollywood stars listed above, is screaming that their RIGHTS will be violated by this new law, and are screaming for a boycott of the State of Indiana.

My question is… do religious people no longer have any rights to hold by their beliefs?  And while I acknowledge there is great room for abuse, isn’t the problem at the moment that it’s the religious citizens that are having THEIR rights abused?

What do you think?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the new/old machshavot of this era are going back to the times of ancient Yavan. Remember the history of Antiochus and then the ancient Romans, who denied freedom of religion for the Yehudim. History is repeating itself over and over and all coming to the fore at these keitz hayamim. Olam hafuch!

Steve said...

My wife and I discussed this law and she thought that it was horrible until I explained to her that one does not go into a kosher butcher and demand a pork roast and then scream that the butcher discriminates against gentiles because he does not sell pork. Many of the cases of discrimination came about because the "victims" of the discrimination demanded the businesses provide services or goods that were in themselves offensive to the business owners.

Akiva said...

In the UK, Xian priests have been arrested for publicly reading from sections of their bible that are against same-gender relations. In a very recent case, the judge instructed the priest that he can't share that section, instead he should share another section.

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