Fully Understanding Bigotry: Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Law

Freedom isn’t the exact F-word that comes to my mind when I first think about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I’ll give you all one guess though as to the word I’m thinking.

The act, which was signed into law late last month by Rep. Governor Mike Pence (who is considering a run for the presidency), allows businesses in the state of Indiana the ability to refuse services to its employees if those services come into conflict with the business owner’s religious beliefs. Now, while protecting religious freedom is usually something I’m all for, it’s abhorrent that this protection comes at the cost of others.

So who are we throwing under the bus with this new law? Basically everyone who isn’t a heterosexual Christian male. It’s almost too absurd to sound like actual news, but this is literally the world in which we live.

Companies can now refuse to cover contraception of any sort in their insurance plans and they can refuse to release pensions or other monies that are due after an employee dies to that employee’s spouse if it was a same sex union. It doesn’t just stop at big companies — this law covers the small mom-and-pop shops run by one old guy and his kids. We’re talking about anyone who has a business license, an LLC, or an unincorporated association being allowed to use their religion as an excuse to deny services.

This law not only gives an entity the ability to deny service, but it in return protects that entity from any kind of legal action by an individual. Let’s make this easier to understand:

Let’s say Jane Doe has recently moved to her dream home in Indiana with her life partner, Mary Smith. Jane and Mary both work for big companies. It just so happens that Jane’s boss is Catholic. Jane has incredibly painful problems stemming from PMS and needs Birth Control X to maintain her body. Jane’s boss says the company insurance plan won’t cover it and Jane can’t challenge that because of the law in place. She concedes and pays a higher rate for the same drug at a local clinic. Twenty years later Jane dies after a long battle with ovarian cancer caused by the rising prices and unavailability of Birth Control X. Jane had a pension. Mary, Jane’s widow, goes to big company to claim the money that should have gone to Jane at retirement. Jane’s boss says no and instead gives the money to Jane’s irresponsible brother Bob who also refuses to give the money to Mary. Mary can’t sue anyone for that money, because technically under Indiana law she wasn’t entitled to it in the first place, nor does any law behoove the company owner to give it to Mary. Mary can no longer afford the home she shared with Jane. She tries to refinance at Big Indiana Bank but as it turns out that bank does not serve homosexuals because the bank owner also happens to be a reverend.

Do you see the vicious cycle here?

People can and will argue that these events could never happen because the law just doesn’t work that way. But do you honestly think that business owners in Indiana are also constitutional law professors who fully understand the mechanics of this law? No! They watched CNN and all they heard was that they are now protected from compromising their religious beliefs for the human rights of others. People hear good news and they run with it.

What I’m curious to know is how people would feel about this law if Indiana was a predominantly Muslim state. Would we be arguing about who the law hurts? Or would it be an in-depth story on how the Brotherhood has infiltrated the nation?

The purpose of the law is to protect the citizen. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects entities and big business and serves essentially no one. It promotes this sense of religious superiority — “My god is greater than your god because my god has the backing of state legislation and the Republican party.”

Uber-conservative laws such as these only serve to widen the gap between politicians and young voters. A large percentage of young voters who plan to be active in politics are progressive thinkers; they’ve been spoon fed the notion of equality and now they’re old enough to vote for people who are going to make it happen. In recent history, even young Republicans have been moving more towards the center on some topics. So is the Republican party shooting itself in the foot by letting potential presidential candidates alienate themselves with these kinds of stunts? Are young Republicans going to be forced to vote for Hillary because the opposing side couldn’t find anyone balanced enough to put on the ticket?

Kinda makes me miss Sarah Palin.

Image from Flickr