Spending Money In Indiana And Arkansas

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is backtracking after signing into state law a bill that would allow individual businesses to decline to entertain certain customers. The law is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to an analysis at the Atlantic, Indiana’s law is different in key ways from the federal law of the same name: “the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to ‘the free exercise of religion.'” There’s more:

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.

What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches.

And lo, certain for-profits have stepped forward to embrace their new rights! Because Jesus was all about refusing to serve people he or his society found distasteful. In fact, he went to the cross rather than sell pizza to same-sex couples.

You don’t remember that part? Read your bibles, folks, come on. It’s Holy Week. 

[Pizzeria owner] O’Connor told the [local ABC affiliate TV] station that her establishment would use the bill to avoid having to cater events like gay or non-Christian weddings.

Her father, Kevin, said everything came down to the issue of choice. “That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?” he asked.

Yes, why should he be beat over the head — which is to say, have to take customers’ money in exchange for his product, as per the conditions of capitalism under which he opened his business?

Anyhoo, the backlash has been as hot and fresh as that pizza that’s now off-limits to gays. Twitter is scathingYelp reviewers too. Even religious groups are airing grievances. Earlier this week, Wal*Mart (!) officially asked Arkansas’s Republican Governor Hutchinson to veto that state’s similar legislation.

All of this is actually making a difference. Governor Hutchinson of Arkansas today “called on state lawmakers to either recall or amend legislation billed as a religious freedom measure,” declaring, “‘we’re not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future.'” And Indiana Governor Pence is feeling the pressure too:

In Indianapolis on Wednesday, lawmakers were weighing language they intend to add to the state’s law as part of what Mr. Pence has described as “a clarification” and also “a fix.” Precise wording was still being hashed out, officials said, but Mr. Pence has said that the intent will be to clarify that the state’s law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone, including gay men and lesbians

With the N.C.A.A. Final Four tournament in Indianapolis this weekend and mounting pressure from business leaders, Indiana lawmakers were racing to draft new language, then hurry the revised measure through both chambers of the state legislature for Mr. Pence’s signature before week’s end.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it? In the meantime, don’t let’s forget:

dan savage indiana twitter

A very important point! Just because some businesses, some politicians, and the governor of a state have been acting badly doesn’t mean we should despair. At OpenForService.org, whether you’re a sodomite, an atheist, or what-have-you, you can still find lots of Hoosiers who will take your money.

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