For a while, it looked as though religious conservatives, Republicans, and those who still believe in the First Amendment had finally won one. In fact, that victory was all the sweeter for the outrage it caused on the left. For decades, conservatives have hung their heads in shame as liberals tore through America’s traditions with their perverted philosophy. It was nice to finally see the tables turned. Well, it was nice while it lasted, anyway.
On Thursday, the Indiana GOP caved. In order to satisfy the activists who have decided there’s nothing more important than the right of a gay couple to buy a wedding cake, they’ve introduced an amendment to their Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would explicitly remove the very protections it is supposed to provide. The amendment states that service providers may not use the RFRA as a defense if they refuse service to customers based on their sexual orientation.
Now, it’s possible that these Republicans are making a distinction here that the left is incapable of making. In other words, they may be drawing a line between refusing to serve gay people and refusing to serve a same-sex wedding ceremony. This is a fine line, but it’s a very important one. It’s the difference, really, between refusing a black customer and refusing a black customer who wants a “Kill Whitey” cake. Clear as day when you put it that way, but the frothing LGBT community sees no distinction. It remains to be seen whether Indiana’s lawmakers will.
If opponents of the fix are right, no such distinction will be made. Mark Rienzi, the lead attorney in the Hobby Lobby case, said that the amendment would “criminalize religious objectors” to gay marriage, making it legal for Indiana to go after Christians who refused to service same-sex weddings. Similarly, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation determined that “the proposed fix amounts to nothing less than a wholesale repeal of the” law.
The proposed amendment will still need to go through the Indiana legislature, but there’s no doubt that Governor Mike Pence is feeling the heat from the state’s economic powerhouses. So fearful of upsetting the gay community, these businesses have threatened to punish Indiana’s economy if they don’t cave on religious liberty. A similar scene played out in Arkansas, where Governor Asa Hutchinson backed away from his promise to sign religious freedom legislation after Wal-Mart demanded a veto. Corporations now apparently get to decide which parts of the Constitution are still viable.
In The New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni opined that “all of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense. And that’s precisely what the florists and bakers who want to turn them away are saying to them.”
Respectfully, that’s not the issue. Many American Christians and conservatives no longer view homosexuality as a sin. And that’s all well and good. But the fact is that some have decided otherwise, and that’s fine as well. We are on a path towards criminalizing belief in this country, and that’s completely counter to the philosophy that gave birth to this nation. Our tolerance for religious conscience should not rest on whether or not others are offended. Times change, beliefs change, but we don’t need to upend the law every time they do. And we don’t need to keep adding protected classes to our discrimination laws every time someone gets their feelings hurt.