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Indiana has passed a “religious freedom” bill that will allow businesses to discriminate against customers if they say it’s their deeply held religious belief. So, for instance, homophobic bakers will no longer have to make a sin cake to be eaten by two people of the same sex who love each other.
The governor insists that this is not a law that will legalize discrimination, and he has promised to clarify it at some future point. But when a reporter gave him a chance to clarify, he…didn’t.
There are many conservatives who are defending the bill, and I’ll briefly cover a few of what I’ve seen are the most common defenses:
1. 19 other states have similar laws! This is also known as the “everyone else is doing it so why can’t I” defense. Pro-tip: if it didn’t work for your mom on Senior Skip Day, it won’t work here. If all the other states discriminated against same-sex couples, would you? Up until last year, the answer to that for Indiana was “yes”. But last year, they became one of the 37 states to legalize same sex marriage.
Laws legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbian belong to a past era, which is when those other 19 states passed their bigoted laws. Don’t worry, we’ll either start protesting those soon enough or else forget those laws exist until someone notices 100 years from now and everyone has a chuckle about what a bunch of assholes their ancestors were before they delete the law from the books.
2. The other defense I see is that this law doesn’t legalize all discrimination, only that which is a “sincerely held belief.” This is the sort of argument that can only be made by the most privileged of religious minds – the person who not only exists in the religious majority, but who cannot even conceive of a single person in the world who might have a sincerely held belief that could hurt them. You’d better believe that the first time a Muslim baker refuses to bake a god damn cupcake for a Christian customer, this law would crumble under its own stupidity.
The fact of the matter is that I wouldn’t support this law even if it resulted in something I believe is good and beneficial, as evidenced by the fact that I criticize this law despite the fact that a clever Indiana resident has started the Church of Cannabis and is hoping that someone will call into question his adherents’ sincerely held religious belief that smoking pot is healthy and beneficial and something god wants us to do.
When you put it like that, it should be obvious: the answer isn’t to make the state evaluate and score potential lawbreakers’ religious sincerity. It’s to either make the act legal for everyone or for no one. If marrying a 12-year old is against the law, no FLDS preacher can say otherwise. If killing your daughter for dating someone is illegal, no extremist Muslim imam can say otherwise. And if discriminating against same sex couples is against the law, no Christian preacher can say otherwise. Except in Indiana.