Senate Bill 101 - known as the "Religious Freedon Restoration Act - is scheduled to come before the full Indiana House of Representatives for a final vote Monday afternoon.
Supporters of the bill say it will strengthen the language in the state constitution for Hoosiers to exercise their religious faith without interference from the government, especially in the workplace. Opponents of the bill say it is a license to discriminate allowing business owners and employees to deny service to someone they don't like or disagree with, specifically in the LGBTQ community.
Hoosiers are voicing their concerns and hoping, as constituents, they voices are heard. And the concerns are vast and valid, as pointed out in James S. Ferguson's letter posted here. Ferguson says he has forwarded this letter to ever member of the Indiana House (all 100 of them) via email.
We can only hope they all read it and think about what it says before Monday's session.
An Open Letter to the Indiana House of Representatives:
In this coming week, you will likely be called upon to vote on SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. A great many people have voiced a great many differing opinions about this proposed legislation, and I know that each of you has your own feelings about it.
Regardless of your personal convictions regarding the right of—for example—a small business owner to deny service to someone because of their religious conviction, I would ask you to consider this example.
There's an organization that calls itself a church. Today they're known as the “Creativity Movement”, but they once styled themselves as the “World Church of the Creator”. This is a group of people whose religious beliefs encompass a vision of the world in which caucasians are the sole protectors of civilization, and must be permitted to be dominant over (and in some cases, allowed to completely conquer and destroy) other ethnicities.
Their doctrine expressly prohibits “fraternization” with African-Americans, Hispanics, persons of either Jewish descent or Jewish faith, Muslims, Catholics and a whole host of other minority groups.
I have read SB 101 in its entirety. I have applied my best faculties to understanding its practical applications, and have exhaustively read the opinions—both pro and con—of legal minds. It is my firm belief that, were the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to become law in the State of Indiana, it would permit a group like the Creativity Movement to exploit its vague language. Businesses run by members of this “church” could deny service to any of the previously-mentioned groups, and rightfully defend that denial of service because being forced to serve a customer belonging to one of those groups would constitute a violation of their religious freedom.
I bring this example to your attention, because I fear that in your haste to protect members of the majority religion of our state—namely Protestant Christianity—you may have failed to consider that this law will give cover to all manner of abhorrent religious practices which would not otherwise be permitted to be exercised in a public context (e.g. the operation of a public commercial enterprise).
So before you vote on this bill, you have to ask yourself the following question: Do you grant the assertion that the proprietor of a business should be permitted to deny service to any individual for any reason they deem to be consistent with their religious beliefs—even if that reason is the person has the wrong skin color, or worships in the wrong faith?
Admittedly, there are some more libertarian schools of thought that think that this is completely permissible. And if you belong to such a school, I may disagree with you but I can at least respect your vote as being ideologically consistent.
But if you don't think that a member of the Creativity Movement should be permitted to deny service to an African-American customer on the basis of their religious belief, it is logically inconsistent and rhetorically disingenuous of you to vote in favor of a bill that would allow a member of a more mainstream church to deny service to a homosexual customer on the basis of their religious belief.
You must concede this point, and vote accordingly. If you do not concede this point, I would very much appreciate a response from your office explaining why you do not concede this point. Any such lack of a response, followed by a “yes” vote on SB 101, will be taken as evidence of intellectual dishonesty and favoritism toward one particular religion over another—a practice explicitly forbidden in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Thank you very much for (I hope) taking the time to read this letter. I implore you to be wise and to carefully consider the possible repercussions of a bill like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act before you cast your vote on it.
James S. Ferguson