Hysteria over Hoosier Religious Freedom Restoration Act misplaced

IndianaBy John Ruberry

When Indiana governor Mike Pence signed into law a Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Thursday, the Hoosier State became the 20th state to enact such a law.

More from the Weekly Standard:

The first RFRA was a 1993 federal law that was signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton. It unanimously passed the House of Representatives, where it was sponsored by then-congressman Chuck Schumer, and sailed through the Senate on a 97-3 vote.

The law reestablished a balancing test for courts to apply in religious liberty cases (a standard had been used by the Supreme Court for decades). RFRA allows a person’s free exercise of religion to be “substantially burdened” by a law only if the law furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

So the law doesn’t say that a person making a religious claim will always win. In the years since RFRA has been on the books, sometimes the courts have ruled in favor of religious exemptions, but many other times they haven’t.

This law protects a bakery owned by devout Christians from, let’s say, not baking a wedding cake for a gay union because it violates their religious belief that marriage should be reserved only for one man and one woman, but this law does not permit to exclude gays as customers in all cases. What that business receives is protection from a discrimination lawsuit.

White River, Indianapolis
White River, Indianapolis

As for that gay couple, they can always find another bakery–that won’t be very hard to do–and the newlyweds can write a nasty Yelp review about the first one while on their honeymoon. Interestingly Yelp is one of those businesses considering a boycott of Indiana because of the its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  But just three weeks ago with great fanfare, Yelp opened an office in Chicago. Illinois, yep, you guessed right, has an RFRA law on the books.

In a statement released on Friday, Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppleman said:

[It] is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.

I guess Stoppelman needs to write a snarky review about himself.

As for Gov. Pence, he’s not helping his case. This morning on ABC’s This Week, Pence was asked six times if the new law will allow businesses to completely refuse services to gays. He couldn’t answer.

No matter: This Hoosier hysteria is misplaced.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.