“…More than 50 cases have been decided against individuals making religious claims against Government action…This act will help to reverse that trend by honoring the principle that our laws and institutions should not impede or hinder but rather should protect and preserve fundamental religious liberties…What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion…We are living in a country where the most central institution of our society, the family, has been under assault for 30 years…Let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions. Let us instead respect one another’s faiths, fight[ing] to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice whatever convictions he or she has.”
Now, if you’ve been on social media in the past two days, you might think this is probably what clearly-bigoted Indiana Governor Mike Pence stated as he signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into state law. But no, this quote is by none other than our very own President Bill Clinton in 1993, when he signed the unanimously passed federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993.
Want to know the ironic part? Indiana’s RFRA is almost identical to the Federal one passed in 1993 that just about every politician in the country, on both sides of the aisle, supported.
Here’s the text of the federal RFRA:
Government may burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person —
(1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
And here is the text of Indiana’s RFRA:
A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
So what happened? They’re identical, and everyone, including liberal icon President Bill Clinton overwhelmingly supported the federal version. So what gives?
I’m honestly stunned at how much misinformation everyone is eating up, without actually bothering to read the law, or the history behind it. We see a blog or tweet from a famous celebrity, take it as Gospel assuming it must be the truth, and run with it, even though mostly everything that has been written is not true. It seems like a lot of people need help explaining Indiana’s Religious Freedom law, so I thought I would give it a go.
Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a free pass to discriminate against gay people?
No. Not at all. Stanford law professor Michael McConnell says,
“In the decades that states have had RFRA statutes, no business has been given the right to discriminate against gay customers, or anyone else.”
This is where the crux of the misinformation lies.
So then, what is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?
The first RFRA was signed into federal law in 1993 by Democratic president Bill Clinton. It was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives where it was sponsored by liberal icon Chuck Schumer, and passed the Senate on a 97-3 vote. What the law did, was reestablish a balancing test for courts to use in religious liberty cases. In simple terms, Government may not place any ‘substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion,’ unless the government can prove:
1. It is pursuing a “compelling government interest”
2. It is the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”
Essentially, the law nowhere states that anyone and everyone has a free pass to discriminate against anyone else. All it does is reaffirm the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, where everyone is entitled to the free exercise of religion, and further reaffirms a citizen’s right to defend themselves in a court of law. The law ironically does not make it easier for religious defendants. The burden is placed on [Read more…]