Religious Freedom (in other words, Freedom to Discriminate)


Religious freedom is not what people in favor of it want you to think. At least, not according to the law Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed in private yesterday. Religious freedom is nothing more than passing laws to have freedom for businesses to legally discriminate.

While Pence claims that the bill he signed, called the Senate Bill 101, “is not about discrimination,” it is clear that that’s exactly what it’s about. The bill “prohibits state and local governments from substantially burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion.” There has been worry that this means it’s, essentially, making it legal for businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, all in the name of “religious freedom.”

The reason people are fearing that this could allow businesses to discriminate is because of the timing (after conservatives in Indiana failed to ban same-sex marriage in the state) and the allies Pence had on his side (conservatives who have pushed for anti-gay marriage laws in the past, such as Eric Miller, the head of Advance America).


Interestingly, Pence cited the equally-controversial Hobby Lobby case as some of his inspiration for signing the bill. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that family-owned businesses can legally deny their employees insurance coverage for contraceptives under the grounds of “religious freedom.” What does religion have to do with contraception? Not much, but Hobby Lobby and other “religious” corporations can use their “religious freedom” as an excuse to deny their employees coverage for different forms of health care.

The passing of Pence’s bill is more of the same. While “religious freedom” shouldn’t have any direct correlation to gay marriage, the law could open the floodgates and allow businesses in Indiana to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers on the grounds of their religion. Apparently, if their religion states that gay marriage is immoral, Pence just passed a law that would allow these anti-gay marriage businesses to discriminate against customers they have a problem with.

The “religious freedom” laws that have been passed over the course of the last year make many Americans wonder what happened to the idea of separation of church and state. While the separation between the two isn’t directly in the Constitution, the idea is still there. Recently, businesses have been given the privilege to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate. Discrimination is against the law, yet “religious freedom laws” are going against that law.

While Pence claims that this bill isn’t about discriminating against groups of people, it blurs the line. It gives businesses the right to discriminate against people, claim that they are exercising their “religious freedoms,” and doing so legally.

America is founded on the idea of “freedom,” but when someone’s freedom compromises the rights of other citizens, then that is no longer “freedom.” That is discrimination. We should be free to practice our religion (or choose not to practice any religion in particular), as long as those practices do not include denying services to customers based on their sexual orientation alone.

Laws like Pence’s Senate Bill 101 in Indiana could open up the doors for similar bills in other states. Despite the fact that Pence claims his bill was not passed to allow discrimination, it is clear that the bill would make it easier for businesses to do just that. If other states follow suit, discrimination could become easier for businesses to practice legally.

It’s unclear whether or not Pence will be running for president in 2016, but if other conservative candidates hold Pence’s beliefs, then this election could prove to be an election that includes candidates who are still fighting to take away human rights on no basis other than discrimination excused as religious freedom.


  1. this is so important. thank you for writing about it! yes, the thinking is that these kinds of laws are β€” at this point β€” aimed against the LGBT community (and a bunch of sour grapes over marriage equality gaining ground), but honestly, where does it stop? given what i’ve seen from the religious right and conservatives lately, this will extend far beyond and (try to) undo a lot of what the Civil Rights Act did. that slippery slope is what scares me most about all these kinds of measures. we are facing similar legislation here in Georgia and it just makes me ill.

    i really applaud SalesForce for their strong stance and promise to limit investment/de-invest in Indiana over this issue. (y’all are welcome to bring more love and jobs to Atlanta!) and in the end, i believe it is that kind of strong, economics-based pushback that will stop these kinds of stupid, discriminatory measures from being adopted on a wider basis. that and, yeah, the Supreme Court. god willing. (ha.)

    (i have now edited this about 18 times so as not to be the crazy girl ranting in your comments! looking forward to reading what others say. and thanks for getting me riled up πŸ˜‰ )

    1. You’re welcome, and I’m so glad you feel as riled up about this issue as I do! Feel free to rant away, because I believe that this is something to be upset over.

      I have the same fear that this could cause a slippery slope, opening up the floodgates to similar laws being passed in other states, allowing for many forms of discrimination to become legal. It’s dangerous. I feel like the politicians signing these bills are striving to walk our country backwards. It’s quite terrifying, and if people don’t speak up about and if things aren’t reversed, it could get worse.

      It just makes me worry for the upcoming presidential elections. I live in Wisconsin, and we couldn’t recall Scott Walker, and after the recall failure, he was reelected as Governor when we had the chance to finally get him out of office.

      With the trend of conservatives and their bills being passed all over the country, I’m worried that this could impact the outcome of the election if the Democrats don’t have strong presidential candidates.

      1. totally, totally agreed. people have short memories and continue to re-elect candidates who do ridiculous things. I am really worried about this election cycle and the Dems’ seeming inability to put out and stick to strong messaging–even though so many of their policies help people and the country. keep helping by spreading the word here! πŸ˜€

      2. I agree. It’s scary that people don’t seem to recall the politicians in the past who have put through bills that take our country backwards. I would really like to see a Democratic candidate who isn’t afraid to be strong and vocal about the changes that need to be made. That’s what we need.

        Thank you! Speaking out is a great way to make an impact.

  2. I keep reading pleas from people in Indiana hoping that they can avoid a wide-spread boycott, pointing out that the majority of Indiana residents do not support the bill. All I can say to that is if the majority didn’t approve, why did they elect politicians who do? It isn’t like anyone was holding a gun to their heads, as it is in other countries. Last time I checked, we can still vote…if we choose to show up.

    1. I know what you mean. The problem is that we can’t always predict that the politicians we want will be elected or strong enough to win against the opponent. While it’s understandable that we want voters to “show up,” we can’t predict what the voting trends will be. We can vote, speak out, hope that we inspire other people to vote, but sometimes, these types of politicians are still elected. It’s unfortunate, but it has to be a group effort.

      1. Yes, the fact is…the majority of people don’t vote in as non-Presidential election, yet those are really the most important ones, as we can see now.

  3. You simply cannot trust politicians. I don’t even know if politicians truly believe in anything. They seem to share the thoughts of whoever is supporting them or giving them the most money.

    1. That’s so true. There’s a lot of corruption that goes on, and it’s unfortunate that we can’t always trust the ones who are pushing through bills that affect the country in a negative way.

      1. I always make sure I vote, though, so that I know my voice is heard. Plus, I feel better complaining about the politicians when I’ve exercised my right to vote. πŸ™‚

      2. Me too, and I totally agree. I feel like even if the candidate I voted for and supported doesn’t win, at least I voted and tried to do what I could to have some small impact on the outcome.

      3. And if you voted, you can complain about what’s going on in government. I hate when people who don’t vote start bitching about the person in office. Maybe they should try voting next time…

      4. You really are so sweet and well mannered. The cynical New Yorker in me might be suspicious of how someone can be so nice, but he doesn’t trust anyone. πŸ˜‰

  4. I wrote on this too this morning. It is infuriating as
    well as shΓ meful. I am embarrassed of how small a once great nation has become. These people are cowards; petty, juvenile cowards playing bullyto mask their own frailty.

    1. I’ll have to read your post. I agree that it’s incredibly frustrating. The bill shows that this politician just doesn’t understand that things related to gay marriage and acceptance of their rights has nothing to do with limiting the religious freedoms of Christians (or any other religion, for that matter). Just because homosexuals want to have equal rights doesn’t mean that they’re saying they don’t believe Christians can practice their religion. But when someone denies services to homosexual customers, that no longer has anything to do with “practicing religion.” It’s just discrimination, plain and simple.

  5. Freedom of Religion already exists in the First Amendment. Trying to implement new laws like these are like trying to fix something that isn’t broekn. (And thus, breaking something as a result.) Conservatives are right to complain about stupid, complicated laws, but don’t need more stupid, complicated laws!

    1. That’s so true. With the existence of the First Amendment, these Freedom of Religion bills are in a sense redundant and confusing. The bills are so vague that they are allowing for complicated situations and possibilities for people to use their “religion” as an excuse for discriminatory behavior. I totally agree that they shouldn’t be trying to fix things that aren’t broken.

      The thing that gets me is that they write in these laws as if Christians are persecuted or discriminated against. If anything, many Christians discriminate against other religions. What would these Christians say if Muslims spoke out about how they need more laws protecting their religion? I read that in some cases with these Freedom of Religion laws, police officers are at times legally allowed to refuse to help protect mosques and other Muslim places of worship because it’s “against their religion.” That’s insane to me, because to me, “freedom of religion” can’t be choosy. Freedom of religion includes ALL religions, not just the “superior” ones.

  6. Thank you for this well written post. I live in Indiana and it feels more and more like I’m on an island surrounded by an ocean of poorly thought out conservative thought. I agree with Josh Wrenn’s comment, except that in Indiana we also have a so-called voter id law that acts to suppress voter turnout.

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I can’t imagine living in Indiana with this situation going on. I would be even more upset about it. You make a good point about how the ID law can suppress voter turnout. With laws like that, it’s harder for the idea of “people, just get out there and vote if you don’t like the politicians” to work.

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