Our friend Dr. Tom Krannawitter shares his thoughts on the RFRA recently made law in Indiana.
Do Americans today even know why the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in 1993? Democrat Chuck Schumer introduced RFRA, which was then passed by a Democrat-controlled House, a Democrat-controlled Senate — with many Republican votes to boot — and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat
A large part of the controversy was caused by federal (and state) regulation of peyote, an hallucinogenic drug used by some tribal people in some religious ceremonies. Even Democrats at that time thought that maybe it’s a problem when government is regulating so many things that people can no longer conduct their religious ceremonies as they traditionally had. That’s why RFRA was passed.
Fast-forward to today: After the Supreme Court struck down the application of RFRA to states, arguing that it only applies to the federal government, a number of states started passing their own versions of state-based RFRAs. I believe nearly half of our fifty states today, most of which lean Republican, have something like a state-based Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while the federal government still has the federal RFRA passed by Democrats in 1993. Yet now all of a sudden a law that tries to carve out a tiny area of freedom from total government regulation and legislation is equated with institutionalized racism, bigotry, and hatred?
Good grief, people, I fear we have forgotten entirely what freedom means or even looks like.
In almost every article I have read, the phrase religious freedom is almost always placed in quotation marks — as in, “religious freedom” — as in, the idea or claim of “religious freedom” is highly suspicious and dubitable — as in, any claim or argument that ANYTHING should be exempt from government regulation is highly suspicious and dubitable. We write and talk and think as if government possesses an assumption of unlimited plenary power over EVERYTHING, while the burden is on citizens to prove that this or that little area of their lives is worthy of a little freedom from government control. We have things so backwards, so upside down.
Should government stay limited to protecting individual freedom, including the freedom to use private property however one pleases — with an army and navy to protect us from foreign threats, a domestic criminal justice system to protect us from fellow citizens who seek to prey upon and hurt others, and a civil court system to enforce contracts and provide tort relief — nothing like RFRA would be needed, at the federal OR state levels! We find ourselves fighting over things like RFRA ONLY BECAUSE we seem to think that any and everything should be regulated by government power.
A free people does not beg permission from its government to live freely — a free people makes sure that its government begs permission from the people anytime government wants to do anything. If only we could remember that, we’d not be having any fights over anything such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because in truth this fight has little to do with religion, and everything to do with who today has the burden of proof and who has the assumption of total power and unqualified authority.