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“Religious Freedom” Law Does Not Go Far Enough

Let me start out by saying that I stand with the millions of people across the nation and around the world who are appalled by Indiana’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The law arguably would validate the desire of private businesses to refuse service to people whose lifestyle a proprietor has a moral objection to. In all likelihood, the main application of the law would be to refuse service to LGBTQ individuals, as Memories Pizza already attempted to do. Of course, at the same time I am heartened by the state legislature’s followup measure prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, which makes the original act’s passage arguably a Pyrrhic victory for Governor Mike Pence.

However, even though I abhor what the original act potentially would have sanctioned, I actually feel that, if we are to allow discrimination based on a lifestyle inimicable to one’s religious beliefs, then the law does not nearly go far enough. Now before you jump down my throat, let me elaborate: the prohibition of homosexuality is a relatively minor tenet in the Bible that is only discussed on a few occasions. It’s not as if it’s among, say, the Ten Commandments. So why would anyone deny service based on sexual orientation while ignoring the cornerstone laws of their religion? In fact, how could a proprietor in good conscience not deny service based on such important tenets of his or her beliefs? If not, you may well be sending people a tacit message that these other sins are acceptable.

Therefore, I say that discrimination based on a proprietor’s religious beliefs should only be applicable if an establishment discriminates based on all tenets of the owner’s religion. So if a Christian-owned bakery refuses to sell a wedding cake for a same sex marriage, that’s okay as long as the denial of service applies to all other violations of Biblical law: the bakery must also deny service to a wedding where either the bride or groom has had premarital sex; or has ever told a lie; or does not observe the Sabbath; or has ever stolen; among many, many, many other specific violations. In fact, I believe that Memories Pizza (if it reopens) should be allowed not to cater same sex wedding ceremonies, on the condition that any event the restaurant does cater includes the client signing a contract that no attendee will consume more than two slices of pizza, lest anyone engage in gluttony.

But that’s only one example. If a restaurant does not want to serve gays and lesbians, it must also turn away anyone who is envious, or wrathful, or hates his or her neighbor. So if someone walks into the restaurant looking angry, he or she must be turned away. If a customer says something like “I wish I had as much money as Bill Gates” or “I can’t stand how loud my neighbor blasts music,” then immediately escort him or her out the door.

Of course, this is but a sampling of the laws specifically outlined in the Bible. The business owner must scrutinize customers based on every single Biblical law. If a vineyard owner walks into your shop, you must confirm that when harvesting grapes he or she does not pick up any that fall on the ground. Because that would be a violation of Leviticus 19:10. If a married couple wants to buy something from you, before ringing them up you had better ask them first if they have sex regularly, and whenever one of them wants it. Otherwise they are in violation of 1 Corinthians 7:3-4.

I realize it might be a major burden for business owners to keep track of all these religious laws when serving customers. Of course, people religious enough to object to homosexuality must surely be well versed in all other rules of their religion, but maybe a few proprietors will forget a rule here or there. Therefore, I propose creating a phone app that will serve as a handy reference for business owners to quickly refresh their memories. I think it would be fitting for Indiana governor Mike Pence to earmark sufficient funds. Perhaps organizations supporting the Religious Freedom Law can also contribute funds.

Obviously, this rule must apply to all religions. A Jewish business owner who denies service to someone gay must also deny service to anyone who does not keep kosher or is not shomer Shabbos. If a man is looking to buy goods or services, a Jewish owner must confirm that he is circumcised. (I suggest doing so in a discreet manner.) And a Muslim proprietor would have to assure all customers are halal and observe sharia law.

But the law must extend beyond the customers: someone denying service based on religious beliefs must also adhere to all tenets of that religion, such as those described above. Anything less would be downright hypocritical on the part of the business owner. If a married man does not want to serve gays because their lifestyle violates Christian doctrine, then he cannot ever look lustfully at any woman, since Matthew 5:28 declares that this is the same as committing adultery. And the business owner must pay his or her employees daily, not on the 1st and 15th of the month, if they are poor, as commanded in Deuteronomy 24:15. Payment must also occur at the end of the workday, because waiting until the next morning is in violation of Leviticus 19:13.

So I say that Indiana business owners should be able to refuse service to gays based on religious beliefs. Just so long as said owners do the same to people who violate any other law of their religion, and they themselves adhere to all laws. Anything less would make null and void any discrimination justified by the owner’s religious beliefs.

I implore the Indiana legislature to pass this amendment to the Religious Freedom law. Arkansas should do the same for its proposed Religious Freedom law, and the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act should be enacted with similar language in the proposed religious exemption. Because everyone should be allowed to exercise his or her religious beliefs, so long as they do so consistently.

Inscription on the northwest quadrant of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. Passages were selected from “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” drafted in 1777 by Thomas Jefferson./Image by Eduardo Ramirez Sanchez

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Even though I abhor what the original act potentially would have sanctioned, I actually feel that, if we are to allow discrimination based on a lifestyle inimicable to one’s religious beliefs, then the law does not nearly go far enough.


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4 Responses to “Religious Freedom” Law Does Not Go Far Enough

  1. goldhold April 4, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    Brilliant and timely piece. Let’s not forgot how this got started: In Hobby Lobby the Supreme Court recognized corporations as people, again. So the logic of this article applies to all of the suppliers, vendors, etc. to the business at issue. And since this involves interstate commerce, the federal laws apply as well.

  2. jachorch April 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Kudos for highlighting the hypocrisy of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Law”, and reminding us all how dangerous laws like this can be.

  3. scorchal April 9, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    The writer very amusingly demolishes the proponents of this ridiculous law by highlighting their hypocrisy and cherry-picking of biblical laws. I would love to see the faces of people who read this expecting validation of their position based on the headline only to find that their hypocrisy is exposed and made fun of.

  4. Patricia April 14, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Clever response to hypocrisy.

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