On Thursday, March 26, Indiana state legislation passed a bill that legalizes religious discrimination.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is one that will allow businesses in Indiana to refuse service and employment to individuals based on their religious beliefs. While supporters of this new law claim its passing would provide business owners protection from too much government control, the ramifications of this act are extremely unclear. If this law is meant to “protect religious liberty,” then why will it overrule any existing anti-discrimination laws that are already present in Indiana cities?
The lack of clarity that stems from the passing of this new bill has been the result of outrage and unrest for everyone except Governor Pence himself, who has outwardly advertised his excitement for this bill to reach his desk as it made its way through the Indiana House of Representatives last week. Will this new law be used as a tool for discrimination? More specifically, will it be a way to allow businesses to turn away members who identify with the LGBTQ community?
What concerns me most about the passing of this new law is how communities of Indiana cities are going to adapt it. Embracing this would allow business owners to base employment possibilities and customer service solely on perception. What happened to embracing equal opportunity and honoring the very freedom of expression guaranteed to every individual living in this country by the U.S. constitution?
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The population of Indiana is not exempt from that. Turning someone away because they don’t identify with the same denomination of faith or because they may not worship the same God is an unconscionable act and the Indiana government is wrong for attempting to establish such a thing.
Not only will Indiana cities be under pressure to decide whether or not to support or oppose this new law, but institutions like Goshen College will be called to choose a side. Will our Christ-centered institution abandon their morals and choose to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? If so, how will this decision affect the already exclusive hiring policy at GC?
As a student studying in the state of Indiana, I agree that clarity on the details of what this new law is capable of needs to be shared with the community. If this law has the potential to discriminate against any individual living in the state, this law should be repealed. Inclusion, acceptance and openness to diverse populations are all representative of what it means to be a Hoosier. If Governor Pence refuses to support the repeal of the law, I strongly encourage all members of this community to sign the petition for his resignation.
Our community is bigger than considering discrimination as something that is socially and legally acceptable. Let us stand together and rise above it.