The Crossroads of America Crossed on Freedom
On the eve of Good Friday, big business leaders jingled some silver in front of Indiana’s elected leaders to entice them away from defending religious freedom and sadly they took the silver. After huddling with CEOs and LGBT groups, the legislative leadership unveiled a new law that not only guts the state’s newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act but imposes punishing fines on people who follow their beliefs about marriage. While most were expecting some kind of ‘clarification,’ few expected the proposed law that outrageously contemplates criminal prosecution for business owners who decline to be a party to a same-sex ceremony. The proposal doesn’t directly create criminal punishment, but for the first time establishes that if the legislature were ever to adopt criminal penalties in the future, a religious freedom claim would provide NO DEFENSE against imprisonment. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty describes the proposed language as making “specific allowances for criminal prosecution.”
But the intolerant left isn’t waiting on lawmakers and the governor to sort out what punishments might be imposed. They have turned their fury on Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana all because a co-owner of the restaurant told a reporter, who was asking local small businesses if they would service same-sex weddings, that she would not cater a same-sex ‘wedding.’ The restaurant temporarily closed its doors [Wednesday] “due to the volume of calls and threats it had received.”
You may be wondering why legislators, who just last week overwhelmingly voted to protect religious liberty, would now introduce a new law that would use the government as a weapon against people who simply follow their beliefs on marriage. It isn’t because the American people are clamoring for it. In fact, a new Rasmussen survey released just [Wednesday] finds that 70 percent of Americans supports the right of a Christian wedding photographer to decline a same-sex ceremony. The answer is Big Business.
Big corporations like Apple, Angie’s List and Walmart are now putting religious freedom in a worse place than before RFRA was signed into law. Under this gutting law, even nonprofits deemed “not religious enough” face government discrimination for declining to facilitate same-sex wedding ceremonies. If the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no limits to what government can control.
Meanwhile there was a better outcome in Arkansas in the tussle over their Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This afternoon the legislature approved and Governor Asa Hutchinson immediately held a ceremony where he signed into law an amended RFRA that mirrors the 1993 federal RFRA. “I think it’s sending the right signal,” said Governor Hutchinson.
Earlier this week things really heated up when two-thirds of the legislature voted to send HB 1228 – the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act – to the Governor, which he promised would receive his signature. However, after reportedly hearing from Walmart executives, he shocked everyone when he responded with a press conference calling on the legislature to go back to the drawing board and send him a bill that would “more closely mirror the federal RFRA.”
Arkansas Family Council President Jerry Cox had it right this afternoon when he said, “If the Arkansas General Assembly passes Senate Bill 975, most of what we were trying to accomplish will have been done. The original religious freedom bill, H.B. 1228, was the Rolls Royce of religious freedom laws. S.B. 975, the replacement bill, is a Cadillac.”
Corporations Tell Freedom ‘None of Your Business’
Corporate America is drawing a line in the sand over America’s foundational freedom and they have decided to stand on the wrong side.
In the past week, corporations from Angie’s List to Walmart to Yelp have weighed in against religious freedom protections in Indiana and Arkansas, having sided with the anti-religious Left.
Our nation’s Bill of Rights appropriately begins with the recognition of the right of the freedom of religion, the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs.
This understanding was behind the adoption of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993 that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. At its signing, Vice President Al Gore said, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is something that every American can support.”
In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (City of Boerne v. Flores) that the federal RFRA did not apply to state and local governments. As a result, twenty states have adopted state versions of RFRA, Arkansas is set to become the twenty-first.
These common-sense laws protecting the freedom to live according to our beliefs are now in jeopardy, and as a result, our freedoms are at risk.
That is why I am taking the unusual step of asking you to send a message to corporate America.
Angie’s List, a company that lists crowd-sourced recommendations for local services, decided that religious freedom wasn’t good for business and has said they are suspending plans to expand its Indianapolis headquarters because of the passage of the law. Reports suggest the real reason is that Angie’s List failed to secure an $18.5 million tax subsidy for the expansion project because of questions over their profitability.
Regardless of the real reason, Angie’s List has said they do not want to do business with people who value religious freedom. Therefore if you have a membership to Angie’s List, I would encourage you to oblige them by calling them at 1-888-944-5478 and canceling your membership and requesting the 110% refund that they promise.
When you cancel, politely let them know that you place a high value on religious freedom, which is not just the freedom to believe, but the freedom to live your life according to those beliefs.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.