As a responsible columnist and journalist (yes, there is a distinct difference between the two), before penning this column I took the time to actually read the text of Indiana Senate Bill 101 – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – the bill that is causing shpilkes in the hearts and minds of far too many people.
This bill, signed into law by Governor Mike Pence (R) to take effect on July 1 of this year, is designed to protect the religious liberty of people of faith and conscience, not discriminate against any group or individuals. That Pence addressed the media and the nation in a clumsy manner defending the legislation is irrelevant. What is relevant is that people of faith for far too long have been harangued by the intolerant left for being people of faith; mocked for having religious convictions – mostly Christians, but also Orthodox Jews, Catholics, and others who stand by religious principles, even at the cost of their businesses.
As an American, as a Jew, as a constitutional conservative, as a capitalist, as a Hoosier, as a human being, I support the right of free people in a society of free market capitalism to conduct business with whomever they choose. Government should not dictate with whom someone does business. There are already laws in place concerning public accommodations and more importantly, the free market will win out. After all, for better or worse, when there is an injustice, real or perceived, the public, or parts of the public will rally around the victim – again, real or perceived.
As an American, as a Jew, as a constitutional conservative, as a capitalist, as a Hoosier, as a human being, I do not support discrimination. I do, however, support the right of people of faith and conscience to conduct their business how they see fit, and with whom, and SB 101 protects the rights of people of faith. It does not endorse discrimination because the burden of proof is on the potential accused, as opposed to the traditional system of American jurisprudence where that onus is on the accuser or prosecution. A person or business denying service to another person or business must prove that providing that service is a substantial burden upon the provider’s religious beliefs and/or practices.
This legislation, in large part, has been viewed as depriving the homosexual community some sort of rights or accommodations under the guise of religious freedom, when it is really protecting the rights of people of faith.
Consider: a person is adamant that he/she should be served a ham and cheese sandwich in a kosher delicatessen and is summarily denied service as such an item could never appear on the menu in that establishment. Should the person denied that sandwich be allowed to sue the deli for denial of services? Of course not, it would put an undue burden on the religious practices of the owners of the kosher deli. And, the patron could be accommodated elsewhere without any undue burden on him/herself.
The crux of the argument surrounding SB 101 involves the right of service providing businesses to be forced to provide services to same sex couples when the business owner’s religious beliefs forbid homosexual marriage. Some would argue that the business is not required to attend the same sex ceremony, but simply provide for the couple, be it flowers, food, cakes, etc. Yet, a multitude of Christians have expressed concern that, based upon the Biblical definition of marriage – one man and one woman – they would be unable to provide services to the same sex couple.
And let the record show, Christians are not the only people of faith who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage. I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, would not want to be forced to provide services to a couple seeking to have a same sex “wedding.” The same sex couple could seek services elsewhere without any undue burden on their ability to achieve their goal without forcing me to abandon my belief system. Should the same sex couple request services for a non-nuptial event – celebrating a religious holiday, an everyday order for whatever such a business sells, accommodating them does not require the owner to compromise his/her principles.
Pence said this is the most important piece of legislation since the First Amendment, yet due to the pressure of the Gay Mafia, Pence feels compelled to walk back some of the language in the bill, which in turn would only weaken its effects.
This is where the free market should take over. A business chooses to deny services to a potential patron, the forces of the market will be employed. Take the Chick-fil-A dining establishment that came under fire because the owner said he does not support same sex marriage. The call for boycotts was instantaneous. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would never allow the chain to open a restaurant in his city. By the way, Mr. Emanuel, the state of Illinois has a RFRA law of its own, as do 19 other states in the nation. And then State Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of the Illinois RFRA.
Those 20 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
In response to the called boycott, the forces in league with Chick-fil-A swarmed to the restaurants nationwide in epic numbers to support their local franchises.
In light of the Indiana legislation, establishments across the state have taken to putting up signs welcoming all comers – an obvious business ploy, and good for them – that’s why a person opens a business – to make money. Should a business choose to deny services for religious reasons, they run the risk of losing money from whoever is negatively affected by that decision. There may be a boycott, there may be signs, billboards, letters decrying that business as bigoted and could suffer financially. And that should be the choice of that business, not government.
Yet, in addition to the 20 states that have RFRA laws, former President Bill Clinton signed into law a federal version of RFRA in 1993, backed by a 97-3 vote in the Senate.
“We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom.…
This act will help… honor the principle that our laws and institutions should not impede or hinder but rather should protect and preserve fundamental religious liberties….
The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our Founders cared a lot about religion. And one of the reasons they worked so hard to get the first amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp….
What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never be too vigilant in this work,” concluded Clinton on November 16, 1993.
Because of an overwrought hyperbolic hysteria amongst the gay community, it has not only blown out of proportion the effects of SB 101, but has proven itself both intolerant of people of faith as well as amazingly hypocritical in its visceral response to the Indiana legislation where it hardly uttered a word upon the passage of the federal law and/or the other 19 states where RFRA is in effect.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said, “Indiana is a horrible place,” yet he is conducting business in Saudi Arabia where a man received 450 lashes simply for being gay.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has placed a ban on non-essential travel for New York state employees to Indiana, yet he will venture to Cuba, where gay marriage is illegal.
The governors of Washington and Connecticut, Jay Inslee (D) and Dan Malloy (D), respectively, have issued similar travel bans.
In support of the ban, Kevin Ollie, men’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut announced he will not travel to Indianapolis for the Final Four this weekend. This is really a non-story as the Huskies didn’t even make the tournament this year after winning it all last year.
My question is, will the Connecticut women’s basketball team, which is in the Final Four, boycott that championship in Tampa, because Florida has an RFRA law similar to Indiana. (UConn is slated to play my alma mater, the University of Maryland, Sunday night for a spot in the Tuesday night championship game.) Let’s see what is more important, their principles or winning another championship. What say you, coach Geno Auriemma?
A rock band by the name of Wilco cancelled its May 7 concert in Indianapolis on the heels of SB 101. Do they plan to cancel their dates in Scottsdale, AZ, Bridgeport, CT, Orlando, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach, FL, Chicago, IL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans, LA, Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, and Dallas and Houston, Texas in deference to those states’ RFRA laws? That would be 14 concerts out of 21 on their calendar a potential loss of two-thirds of their potential revenue – but they have their principles, yes?
And closer to home, in Walkerton, Indiana, 20 miles south of South Bend, Memories Pizza, owned by Kevin O’ Connor shuttered its doors within the past 24 hours due to the overwhelmingly violent (verbal and physical threats) in response to an interview given by O’ Connor’s daughter, Crystal. She said it would violate the family’s religious convictions to cater a gay wedding. This was a hypothetical question asked by the reporter from ABC-57 as the pizzeria has never been asked to cater a wedding of any kind. Crystal emphasized that all people are welcome to patronize Memories Pizza regardless of sexual orientation, but that did not fend off the firestorm to come.
The social media review site Yelp was inundated with vicious attacks on the O’ Connors and their establishment, located in Walkerton more than a decade. They stopped answering the telephone at the restaurant because they could not discern which orders were real and which were fake. The O’ Connors even received several death threats. And for what? Because this family of faith expressed their faith publicly and fervently held to their religious beliefs.
In response to all the negative bashing endured by the O’ Connors, they closed Memories Pizza, which hopefully will not become a distant memory in Walkerton. However, radio host and author, Dana Loesch created a “Go Fund Me” page called “Support Memories Pizza” in hopes of raising $35,000, and it raked in over $314,000 in less than one day from over 11,200 contributors. Just as with the Chick-fil-A situation, the people have spoken and rallied around decency to save a business that if some people wish not to patronize, they are free to go elsewhere for a slice.
Governor Pence should not cave in to the gay mafia’s caterwauling and threats. “This legislation was designed to ensure the vitality of religious liberty in the Hoosier state. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate.” That said, there should be no reason to amend the law just days after its enactment.
“Gay liberals have turned into bullies,” said Tammy Bruce, a gay conservative, in an interview on April 2 on Fox and Friends. “It is the antithesis of what every civil rights movement was about,” said Bruce, host of her own radio program and author of three books. Bruce is right and the attempt by the gay mafia to blackmail, threaten boycotts or to move businesses should be met with resistance. If a business wishes to move from Indiana because of SB 101, it has but 30 states from which to choose should they attempt to stay true to their principles. They will then endure the cost of moving and restructuring its labor force.
Bottom line, SB 101 is designed to protect religious liberty as afforded by the first amendment of the United States Constitution and not discriminate against anyone. Let all who observe have a happy and meaningful Pesach or Easter.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.