Undoubtedly, you have heard something in the last few weeks about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Most likely, you have been told that it is ultimately a way that businesses can legally and openly discriminate against minorities, especially homosexuals. What the bill actually does is provide people an opportunity to be protected from lawsuits if they choose to not engage in an act of business that would violate their sincere religious convictions. In layman’s terms, it gives a business the right to refuse service if that service would go against their religious beliefs.
Of course, if you watch the news, or follow a celebrity or two on Twitter, you would probably believe that the bill gives specific rights to Christians alone, rights that specifically discriminate against, take freedoms from, and cause harm to homosexuals. Many on the left, (and I’m sure a few on the right) have tried their luck at dismantling the RFRA by nonchalantly tossing out straw man after straw man, in hopes one will stick, and unfortunately many have. However, taking a mere five minutes to read and at least moderately understand the text of the bill will inform you that none of these things are protected, nor even mentioned inside of it.
In reality, the Indiana RFRA, or any other bill like it, are from a constitutional standpoint, completely and utterly pointless. They do nothing but continue to enforce the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment, and should serve as nothing but a reminder that we (should) have no laws prohibiting the free exercise of our religious beliefs and freedom of association.
However, over the past few years, there have been many cases when a small business owner has been sued to bankruptcy due to his or her refusal to compromise their religious beliefs when doing business. An example that has seemingly recurred numerously is that of a Christian baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. It is well known that Christians, while called by God to love all, have moral and religious objections to homosexuality (as do Jews and Muslims), thus having an objection to a gay marriage, as marriage itself is a very important aspect to the Christian faith. When these bakeries refuse to bake the cake, citing religious reasons, they are often, sued, and left in financial destitution afterwards, causing them to shut down.
When analyzing this scenario, a certain, and very important differentiation should be deduced. The Christian bakers did not refuse to do business with the customer because they were gay, but because of what the cake was and stood for. Had it been a heterosexual customer ordering a cake for a white supremacy meeting, there is no doubt in my mind that those same bakers would have refused to do business with him. On the other hand, had a homosexual customer come in and ordered a regular birthday cake, or perhaps a plate of cookies for an office party, I would imagine that those bakers would have no issue with filling his order and doing business with them. As a business owner, it is not possible (and generally not moral) to completely discriminate against those whom you have religious, political, moral, or any other forms of disagreements with, but it is possible and important to not support or aid something that blatantly goes against many of your beliefs.
As far as freedom of association goes, I personally don’t believe the Indiana RFRA does enough. Why should someone need to have a specific religious belief to run their business according to their own wishes?
Should an African-American baker be forced to bake a cake for a K.K.K. rally? Should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a cake with a giant swastika on it? Should a baker who is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers be forced to bake Boston Celtics themed cupcakes? A scenario I would really like to see play out just for curiosity’s sake is one where a man orders a “Straight Pride” themed cake for his organization “African-American’s for Traditional Marriage” from an outspoken racist and homosexual baker. Who would win in that situation? Would the baker be forced to bake the cake? To be honest I have no idea. I can never figure out what the hierarchy of protected classes is in the world of political correctness is. I suppose it would come down to which group of activists got to the scene of the “crime” first, as the mainstream support for instances such as these rarely relies on logic or circumstance, but instead on unbridled emotion (a key ingredient in the philosophy
of progressives). Basically, whichever side is trendier will be side of the media, academia, and such.
In my political utopia, anti-discrimination laws would be completely replaced by a strong free market,where those who want to discriminate are free to do so, but must face the economic consequences that that free market would bring.
However, that is very unlikely to happen in the near future. Religious freedom on the other hand, is something that we currently have and can realistically keep, but we need to value and protect it. It is an essential portion of our freedom of speech, our freedom of association, and of our American way of life.