The public debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law is (almost) enough to drive this Baptist to drink. The conversation has been the most uninformed and ignorant I’ve seen in years. This culminated in a panel on one of the Sunday talk shows suggesting that the law would return us to the days when signs would hang in stores detailing who would not be welcome to do business there.
The law, of course, does nothing of the sort. Indiana merely passed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the law that passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in 1993 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The act was supported by a coalition spanning from the far Left to the far Right.
RFRA, of course, does not grant anyone the right to “discriminate” or deny service to anyone else. All the law does is articulate that religious freedom is a factor to be weighed in making court decisions about the common good, that the government must show good cause in restricting someone’s free exercise of religion.
So where does all the ignorance come from in this case?
Many of those leading the discussion of religious freedom have little or no understanding of what motivates religious people. This shows up in almost all of these conversations, whether over the Little Sisters of the Poor fight not to be compelled to purchase contraception insurance coverage or the legislative attempts to codify RFRA. If one cannot empathize with why defying conscience on a matter of religious exercise is a life-or-death concern, then one is free to impute all sorts of evil motives. Why doesn’t the employee at Abercrombie and Fitch just ditch the head scarf to work there? After all, that’s just fashion. Why won’t the Amish just drive in cars down the road like “regular people” do?
HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS 3/30/15
Backlash over Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence doubled down on his decision to sign a new religious freedom law last week. Joshua Driver, the founder of Open For Service, and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, debate.
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Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.