Hysteria: a state in which your emotions (such as fear) are so strong that you behave in an uncontrolled way.
If someone needed to look at an example of hysteria, then look no further to the reaction of liberals and corporations with regards to Indiana’s passing of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Indiana’s RFRA is based on the federal statute that was passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton during the early 1990’s. The law was passed in reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that many felt could open the door to the infringement of one’s First Amendment rights.
Despite the Federal RFRA, many states have felt the need to pass a state version of the RFRA. Part of the reason has been some state courts’ decision to overrule a person’s religious belief in the name of “non-discrimination.” See previous article here. Some states have felt the need to remind their courts that one’s first amendment rights do not end, but rather continues into the stream of commerce.
When Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s version of the bill, the hysteria began.
Before addressing the opposition’s arguments, we need to be reminded what is the First Amendment. The First Amendment whether it deals with the freedom of the press, or assembly, or religion addresses one issue-the freedom to follow one’s conscience. Why is this important? It is important because a society that recognizes the freedom to follow his or her conscience is a free society. You cannot disobey criminal laws or break a contract because you felt like it. Those actions have greater consequences. But freedom of conscience means that your thoughts and opinions are respected, whether the majority of society agrees with you or not.
Religious freedom for instance protects a Jehovah Witness from saying the Pledge of Allegiance in keeping with their belief prohibiting oaths.
When an activist group turns to the court or when a corporation, such as Apple or Walmart, seek to impose its version of orthodoxy through political pressure at the expense of fundamental rights against another group, our society suffers. Indiana’s RFRA opponents are encouraging future actions where we allow the government to be the final arbitrator of what we should say, or what things we should think about in the name of “tolerance or national unity.”
Show me a state that regulates religious liberties and I’ll show you a state that regulates everything in its citizens’ lives. We are beginning to put shackles not only on our freedoms, but our children and grandchildren.
This is what the critics of Indiana’s RFRA and supporters of human rights amendments refuse to recognize. Their main argument is that the law allows for people to discriminate on the basis of race or sexual orientation.
With regards to racial discrimination, unfortunately some people have used the Bible to justify racial discrimination, but the irony is that the same Bible shows us the sin of racism.
To discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation is different. In a majority of circumstances, one would have to confide to another person of his or her sexual orientation. Think about that for a moment. When was the last time you met a person for the first time, whether it was a party or a networking event. When that person introduced himself or herself, did they opened up about their sex life within the first five minutes of meeting you? Did they mention their sexual orientation? Or how many partners they slept with? The answer is most likely no. And if they did mention that part of their lives to you, a total stranger, how fast were you looking for the exit or finding another person to talk to?
Listening to the law’s opponent one gets the impression that Indiana’s business owners would begin to ask questions about people’s sex lives before serving them or conducting business with them. Seriously?
If someone were to ask me about my sex life, my response would be, “None of your business.” That aspect of my life is personal and it will not to be shared with a complete stranger. However, the only time I will share that part of my life with another person is because there is an element of trust and that trust takes time. If this were a business transaction, I would walk away. Why would you want to conduct business with someone who is that nosey or feels that they have missed their calling as an agent for the National Security Agency?
I realize that the above scenario would be different in the context of a wedding as it happens with bakers, florists, caterers, and photographers. Here is where the law comes into play.
RFRA forces the courts to take into account one’s religious faith, something that courts have failed to do. Courts need to be reminded that the freedom to live out one’s faith as dictated by their conscience is a fundamental freedom and must be respected. A judge can determine if the accused business owner is using “religious belief” in a fraudulent or false manner.
A couple of months ago, Americans stood with the French in solidarity after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Many commentators and journalists wrote about the importance of free speech in a free society.
Unfortunately many elected officials, corporations, or the activists who have used or added to the current hysteria. They are no different than those who attacked Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Their goal is the same-to make our society less free by limiting our ability to follow the dictates of our conscience whether or not we are guided by religious faith. When that happens, we all lose.