UPDATE (1/27/16): According to Freedom Indiana, the statewide LGBT rights group, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is dead. Yay!
— Freedom Indiana (@freedom_indiana) January 27, 2016
Last year,Indiana’s Republican lawmakers passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a new law (and new low) letting businesses to use God as an excuse to refuse service to queers and anyone else they think God hates. Now the very same lawmakers are at it again, with a bizarre bill that combines “religious freedom” with the right to bear arms. In other words, yikes!
State Senator R. Michael Young — a Republican representing Indianapolis — has introduced SB 66, a bill that would repeal last year’s controversial law and replace it with a much broader law that would allow (nay, encourage) discrimination. It has been described as last year’s bill “on steroids” by the civil rights group Freedom Indiana. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking at the bill tomorrow.
SB 66 lists six rights that the government should “treat with the greatest deference”:
- the right to worship.
- the right to free exercise and of conscience.
- the right to freedom of religion.
- the right to freedom of thought and speech.
- the right of assemblage and petition.
- the right to bear arms.
Since all of these rights are currently protected by both the Indiana Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it’s unclear why this bill would need to be passed at all. In fact, the Indiana state Bill of Rights explicitly names 37 protections, including the “right to equal privileges and immunities.” Professor Robert Katz of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law wonders why this bill cherry-picks just six of those rights. But it turns out there’s two catches.
First, the government would not be able to “substantially burden” someone’s “right to freedom of religion” without proving a “compelling governmental interest” and also proving that government intervention is the “least restrictive means.” Professor Daniel O. Conkle of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law says the bill “goes well beyond religious freedom,” and explains how the bill’s weapons provisions could have a dangerous long-term effect. “Under this legislation, if the government wanted to ban switchblades — as it did for decades — it would have to demonstrate a compelling interest for a statewide prohibition.”
The New Civil Rights Movement explains how this bill would affect individuals:
“…it could mean that a government employee, say, a DMV worker, could refuse to give a teenager a driver’s test, if they perceive them to be LGBTQ. Or perhaps a police officer might decide to not respond to a domestic violence call because the couple is same-sex.”
The list of possible discrimination is staggering
And there’s one other thing. The language of the bill is worded in such a way that a “person” is defined as “individual, including a group or association of individuals,” or any other “legal entity.” That means your church, your local Walmart, and your crappy neighborhood pizza joint are all considered “people” with their own religious rights. And, it seems, the right to bear arms.
Of course, the last time Indiana tried this, the business community threatened to pull their companies out of the state — in fact the state lost 12 conventions and over $60 million in revenue as a result. And everyone mocked the hell out of Indiana on social media. Perhaps a fresh round of public disapproval will get them to withdraw it again.
(featured image via kellyv / Flickr)