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Indiana religious freedom law can go both ways

In Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology on March 30, 2015 at 9:56 am

DIH LOGOA few years ago, I published an article on what is, in my opinion, one of the major problems with the heated debate over the legality of same-sex marriage. Most arguments seem to dance around the principal question of why the government has any authority to dictate who we marry in the first place. A state-mandated definition of marriage seems to be, again in my opinion, at the very least, a violation of the most basic of human rights.

Just as is the case for marriage, once again most people are missing the more serious issue with Indiana’s controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Everyone’s so focused on discrimination towards one group that they’ve overlooked the larger issue that this ill-conceived legislation has opened the door to every manner of state-enforced, religiously-based discrimination.

IMG_3317Having read the actual bill text (Indiana Senate Bill Numbers 568 and 101) I can tell you that it seems to me so open-ended, it seems to give people the right to discriminate against anyone they choose claiming only religious offense. Apparently, what the brilliant Indiana legislature didn’t take into account is that it works both ways. In other words, would they still uphold their law if a Christian is discriminated against by someone of another faith, say a Muslim or Jew?

Or, let me put it another way. Suppose a Christian man comes into a Jewish-owned shop. He removes his hat as he enters but, as a person of Jewish faith, the shopkeeper’s tradition is for men to keep the head covered at all times. Immediately offended, the shopkeeper refuses him service and asks him to leave citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Yes, this is an exaggerated scenario. But, were it to happen, would the shopkeeper be protected for this bit of state-approved discrimination? My guess is the intolerance at the Indiana State House works only one direction.

Incidentally, I’ve never much liked the term “tolerance” with regard to social diversity. Instead, it would be nice if people made at least some small effort to understand other ways of life, although I realize that is probably an uphill climb. One place where the word does apply, however, is when people have to tolerate the ignorance and bigotry of others.

Despite differences in faith, race, ethnicity, choice of Apple over Microsoft, green over blue, whatever, it really is possible for people to disagree without prejudice. Every day I am exposed to people and concepts that don’t mesh with my view of life.

Regardless, I try to just accept that their way is different, let people be, and hope they are kind enough to do the same. Ignorance may be bliss for some people but will never further the cause of peace and goodwill.

Accepting the differences of others without fighting them to bend to my way of thinking doesn’t mean I’ve compromised my own beliefs. If anything, it reassures me that my choices are right for my life and helps me to encourage people be who they are, whether I agree with it or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have and voice strong opinions. But it’s not my place, nor anyone else’s, to implement it by denying someone the basic liberties granted by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – to say nothing of the first 10. And, in my amateur opinion, when the Indiana bill is finally challenged – and it will be – the 14th will undoubtedly be the machete that severs the snake’s head.

Until then, I offer a word of apology to my western neighbors in The Crossroads of America, the great State of Indiana. Your entire state is being hurt over this and that’s unfair. We all need to remember that, like everywhere else, kind people live and work in the Hoosier state and shouldn’t be labeled because of the stupidity of a few.

And to Indiana Governor Mike Pence I say this on behalf of myself and my fellow 21st Century business owners in the great Buckeye State of Ohio. We refuse service to you and those who authored and approved this bill because you are offensive to our belief in good character and common decency.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at deerinheadlines.com.

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