Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's Protection, not Discrimination!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Last week Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The law would prohibit laws that ‘substantially burden’ a person’s freedom of religion unless the government can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden.  The intent of the law is to protect religious freedom for individuals and entities.   There is already a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  It was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 after passing the House and Senate nearly unanimously.   Nineteen states, including Oklahoma, have RFR laws on the books.   The media has been ablaze with misreports of how Indiana’s bill will foster discrimination.   Gay groups have said the law was passed to discriminate specifically against them, even though no group is mentioned in the bill. 
     First, Indiana’s law is different than Oklahoma’s law.  Oklahoma’s current RFR law doesn’t protect businesses, just individuals in the free exercise of their religion.  There have been bills proposed this year in Oklahoma that would mirror Indiana’s law and they may or may not make it out of committee.  Indiana’s law is similar to those passed in South Carolina and Louisiana.   Indiana’s RFR law differs from the federal and most state RFR laws in three ways; (1) It explicitly protects the exercise of religion by entities as well as individuals.  Its enumeration of entities includes “a corporation”, without limiting this to closely-held companies.;(2) The bill’s protections may be invoked when a person’s exercise of religion is “likely” to be substantially burdened by government action, not just when it has been burdened; (3) The bill permits the assertion of free exercise rights as a claim or defense in judicial or administrative proceedings even if the government is not a party to the proceedings.   Because of the implications to corporations, eight CEOs of large businesses in Indiana sent a letter to Pence asking him to fix the bill.  Angie’s List has postponed a planned expansion in Indiana until there are ‘corrections’ in the law.
     Second, and most importantly, this law is about protection, not discrimination.  America was founded on the principle of allowing people to practice their religion without fear of retaliation.  Today, people who live their faith are under attack in America.  Businesses like Hobby Lobby and Chick fil A are both loved and hated because they have taken stands for their values.  In modern America,if you believe the Bible, and vow to be for what God is for and against what He is against, you are sure to run into people who will ‘discriminate’ against you.  The real discrimination happening in America is against those who hold tradition values.   
     Third, consider the word discrimination.  In 1828, Webster defined discrimination as: The act of distinguishing; the act of making or observing a difference; distinction; as the discrimination between right and wrong. Today’s dictionary defines discrimination as: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: Quite a difference.  Much of that change in the definition came out of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s when discriminating became associated with racism.  Words do mean something and their usage and meanings can change, but the word discrimination wasn’t always a bad word with a negative meaning. Consider the following;
We all discriminate.   
     For example, if you know that one glass is laced with poison and another is pure spring water, you will like discriminate against the first glass and drink the second.  Every time, you walk the aisle of a grocery store, you discriminate when you make a purchase- you choose one brand over another.  That’s a form of discrimination.  So you see, we make discriminating choices all the time and not just in shopping. 
      For people of faith, they believe they must base their decisions on the principles found in God’s Word.  They want to for those things He is for and against those things He is against.  It’s not discrimination- it’s dedication to their values.  Since our founding, America’s founding document, the Constitution, allowed for every person to practice their faith as they wanted.  Government stayed out of it.  Indiana’s law simply protects that fundamental constitutional right and allows individuals and companies owned by people of faith to practice their faith without fear of retaliation.  Many of the critics crying intolerance and discrimination are often the most intolerant and discriminating against those who don’t agree with them.  This law is about protection- not discrimination.

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