Self-Refuting Reactions to RFRA

Much debate and consternation has taken place this past week over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). For the sake clarity, let’s revisit the actual text of this “controversial” bill. It reads as follows:

“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 is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and [if the curtailment of said person’s exercise of religion] is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” The proposed bill goes further to state: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened…may assert… a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding…” Finally, RFRA concludes: “If a court… [does] not demonstrate that [the government restriction of the person’s religious freedom] is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest; the court… shall grant appropriate relief [to the religious person] against the governmental entity…”

Now for my question: How in the name of COEXISTENCE and TOLERANCE, and all that is implied by Webster’s definition of these words, can anyone extoling such inclusive language possibly considered Indiana’s RFRA a bad law? Stop and think about it. The explicit premise of this proposed bill says this, and no more than this: No government entity should have power over religious expression if there is a less restrictive way to assure that, in the words of Rodney King, “we can all just get along.” Or if you’d prefer the more specific and precise language of the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights: Our government has no power to “establish” any religious beliefs or to curtail the free expression, thereof, by any duly recognized citizen of the land.

Considering these irrefutable facts, here are a few rhetorical questions that should cause everyone, whether you consider yourself on the left or the right, to reconsider any objections to the Indiana RFRA before you jump to any ill-advised conclusions. (And at the risk of appearing a bit pedantic, please permit me to state the obvious: None of these examples have anything to do with any mean, nasty, judgmental Christians).

  • Should the Jewish owner of a local meat processing business be forced to butcher pigs for a local anti-Semite farmer?
  • Should the owner of a halal deli be forced to provide catering for a Jewish bar mitzvah?
  • Should the Muslim owner of a local newspaper be forced to print Charlie Hebdo cartoons?
  • Should a Catholic grocer be forced to sell bread and wine to a Satanist church for a mock Eucharist?
  • Should a Muslim baker be forced to bake a wedding cake for his neighbor’s gay “wedding”?
  • Should a gay business owner be forced to provide a cake inscribed with a text condemning homosexual “marriage”?
  • Should a Hindu who strictly adheres to Ahimsa be forced to run a billboard campaign for Echrich or Hormel Foods?
  • Should a PETA compliant marketing firm be forced to produce billboards to sell mink coats and rabbit hats?

I sincerely hope your answer to all of the above is a resounding NO! How in the world could forcing these people to violate their conscience (whether you agree with them or not) be considered the “least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest?” Surely it is clear that all of the potential customers cited above could easily find other means of securing their desired products and services. There are clearly other options that would be much “less restrictive” to all concerned. Forced compliance to the contrary surely smacks more of totalitarianism than it does of tolerance.

Let’s be clear, opposition to the Indiana RFRA isn’t about tolerance. It is about tyranny and it is about power. It’s about forcing others to agree with your religion or behavioral choices under threat of legal penalty. It is grounded in the self-refuting logic (or lack thereof) of saying, I can’t tolerate your intolerance and I hate you hateful people, or I am right for condemning conservatives for thinking they’re always right! It’s akin to watching a dog chase its tail and would be a bit humorous if that same dog didn’t then turn on you in its rabid confusion and try to bite you.