Commentary

03.30.15

In Vogue: Religious “Freedom” as Discrimination

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The ACLU knows a few things about true religious freedom. We’ve been fighting for it since our founding in 1920.

Religion and our freedom to exercise (or not to exercise) it is an important part of what makes us Americans and we’ll continue to ensure all people have these rights. Where we must draw the line is when people use their religion to discriminate against others for who they are. Religion is like a shield, not a sword.

Unfortunately, Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, used his pen as a sword when he recently signed into law a bill deceptively titled “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” This new law claims to protect religious freedom, but what it really does is say that Indiana doesn’t welcome everyone to their state. The ways it can hurt people will be felt most starkly by those in the LGBT community.

No One is Under Attack—Except LGBT People

Prominent athletes, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and even faith leaders opposed the law. Governor Pence refused to listen and signed the bill saying, “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

The sad truth is that LGBT individuals are the ones under attack. Gay marriage was established in Indiana last year and this reaction to progress by Governor Pence is shameful.

Is Ohio Next?

Last year, Arizona passed legislation that would have allowed for similar discrimination. Governor Jan Brewer thankfully heard the message, unlike Governor Pence, and vetoed the legislation. Lines were starkly drawn when, as the host of the Super Bowl, it was brought to light that openly gay player, Michael Sam, could have been denied services at, for example, a team dinner out a restaurant.

Similar to Arizona, Ohio had legislation introduced that would have taken this discrimination even further. Thankfully, it did not pass, but with a new General Assembly this year, lawmakers have another opportunity to introduce this harmful legislation. With the possibility of gay marriage nationwide in June of this year, will Ohio’s legislators and Governor Kasich welcome everyone to this state or will they side with our neighbor to the west?

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