Posted by: frroberts | March 30, 2015

Additional analysis of Indiana’s “Anti-gay” law

I really think this is a tempest in a teapot that both the left and right are trying to use to score political points, but here is some interesting analysis:

backers of the bill say critics are just plain wrong about its application. Nearly identical laws are already in place at the federal level and in more than one-third of states nationwide, they say, and the last two decades have shown that these laws have been used not to discriminate against gay individuals, but to protect religious rights.

Fiedorek pointed to numerous examples of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in place. In one case, a Texas Native American boy appealed to a similar law when his school dress code barred him from wearing his hair longer than the other students.

In Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia allowed commercial food trucks to sell food in a park, but prevented charitable organizations from feeding the homeless for free. The charitable groups used the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act “to defend their ability to feed the homeless and prevent the government from making distinctions on who may exercise their constitutional freedoms and who cannot.”

Fiedorek said such legislation might have saved the life of one Jehovah’s Witness woman with religious objections to blood transfusions.

In 2012, suffering from liver failure, the woman sought a bloodless liver transplant operation. Her doctors found someone to perform the procedure in the neighboring state of Nebraska that was cheaper than a normal liver transplant.

However, Medicaid and the state of Kansas refused to pay for it because it ruled that the procedure required by her religious beliefs “did not constitute medical necessity.”

Fiedorek said the woman “would likely be alive today” had Kansas passed a religious freedom restoration act like Indiana’s.

She added that the Indiana law has no bearing on disputes between private parties unless government actions are involved.

Read more:


  1. I have found this discussion quite disheartening, especially as it has played out on social media. It sometimes seems that you have to post or tweet something immediately or you are automatically self-identifying as someone “in favor of hate.” And you must say it before reading the legislation, researching it, or considering it at any depth. You must pick a side before coming to an understanding of the issue.

    They published the law in the Indianapolis Star this weekend and after reading I began to wonder what the precise issue was. Is it Section 5, in which it is defines “exercise of religion” to include”any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief”? Is the problem that people are worried that this very broad definition of “exercise of religion” could include “hate” and “discrimination” (what critics of the law argue that the law would permit) as things that a person could claim is part of their “exercise of religion”?

    (Implicit in this fear is the idea that legally protecting the exercise of religion automatically promotes hate and discrimination, especially against the LGBT community.)

    Is the issue in Section 9, which states “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, … may exercise the violation … of this chapter as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding…”? Is the issue that this law guarantees that someone can claim exercise of religion (as defined above) as a defense for violating “a government statute, ordinance, resolution, custom, executive or administrative order,” etc.? Is the worry that one can claim the exercise of religion as a legitimate reason to ignore any law (except, as noted in Section 8, if it interferes with “a compelling government interest”)?

    (Implicit in this fear is the idea that permitting individuals to exercise religion in matters outside the scope of a compelling government interest would result in hate, discrimination and de facto segregation.)

    I wonder if what is most revealing in the response to this legislation is less a desire to discriminate against the LGBT community than what is clearly an absolute terror on the part of the left of the “exercise of religion”–the suspicion that the exercise of religion involves violence against those who are not members of that religion. And while one doesn’t have to look hard to find examples of horrific actions done ostensibly in the name of “exercise of religion,” I suspect that it would be harder to find instances of truly scary things that do not also transgress “a compelling government interest,” like providing equal protection under the law or protecting the safety of individuals’ persons and property.

    I’m honestly not sure what I find more disturbing, the law itself or the reaction to it. As a Catholic, should I be more afraid of a law that allows someone to act outside the law in the “exercise of religion”? Or of a response to the law that seems to equate “exercise of religion” with hate and discrimination?


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