The Hysterical Reaction to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Bill

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Stop what you’re doing, everyone, the LGBT crowd is upset about something.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Indianapolis’s Monument Circle on Saturday to protest the Indiana Religious Freedom Bill, signed into law by Governor Mike Pence. Opponents of the bill, including LGBT activists, say that the law gives Indiana businesses a license to discriminate against gay customers. Since its passing, the law has attracted criticism from celebrities, politicians, and even some businesses. Angie’s List put the brakes on a $40 million headquarter expansion in protest of the bill, and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said that he would no longer send his employees or customers to Indiana because of the legislation.

What all of these protestors and loudmouths seem to miss is that Indiana’s legislation makes them the 20th state to enact a bill mirroring the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A piece of federal legislation that was signed into law by legendary conservative icon…Bill Clinton. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Governor Pence noted that Barack Obama himself voted in favor of Illinois’ version of the bill when he was a state senator.

“I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state,” Pence told the Star. “I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterization from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill.” Pence has since said that he will back legislation that would clarify the bill, making clear that it was not – as critics say – government-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

No such clarification should be necessary. The bill merely provides state courts with a legal framework with which to judge discriminatory lawsuits. It puts in place a test that makes it necessary for the government to prove that there is sufficient governmental interest to justify regulating a religious practice. It also places restrictions on that regulation, insisting that the government use the least restrictive means possible to achieve that interest. It’s not about giving business owners a license to discriminate; it’s about giving their religious beliefs the due weight they deserve.

There is not one word in the bill, obviously, about gays and lesbians. But because the LGBT crowd is riding high on a number of cases in which business owners have been compelled to compromise their beliefs, they see this law as a step backwards. Businesses can’t have a religion, they insist, even though businesses are nothing other than a representation of the people that started them. And there is nothing, so far as I can glean, protecting gay weddings in the Constitution.

There is, however, a fairly glaring amendment prohibiting the government from infringing upon religious freedom. That this Indiana bill is causing so much controversy is a sign of how powerful the LGBT lobby has become. And it’s a sign of how lax we’ve become about the defense of our God-given rights. They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That day – a time of painful regret – may be coming sooner than any of us might have dreamed.