GOP Lawmaker Wants 'Concrete Guarantee' For 'Right' To Discriminate On Religious Grounds, Or Carry A Gun
Republican State Senator R. Michael Young (photo) has decided the international attention and outrage last year's Religious Freedom Restoration Act earned lawmakers and the governor of Indiana was insufficient, so he wants a do-over.
Sen. Young has authored SB 66, anti-gay legislation that would repeal the RFRA, including the legislative "fix" that had to state the law could not be used to discriminate against LGBT people. In its place, Sen. Young's bill would codify into law the right to discriminate for any reason, including and especially for religious reasons, and the right to carry a gun.
Because Sen. Young used language so sweeping and broad, his bill is being described as the original RFRA "on steroids" by Freedom Indiana.
In addition to the already-protected First Amendment right to worship, Young wants the "right to free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions and the right of conscience," offering no boundaries whatsoever. For some reason, Young believes the right to bear arms – the right to own and carry a gun – needs to be included under his legislation.
The bill defines "person" as an "individual, including a group or association of individuals," and as any other "legal entity." In other words, corporations, houses of worship, hospitals and schools owned by churches, stores, restaurants, etc., are people too my friend.
That means that you local neighborhood John's Pizza, or Joan's Garage, or even your cable company can deny you service on the grounds of "religious opinion" or "conscience," period, and, further it means no Indiana governmental entity or official can stop them unless it is "in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest," and – not or, but and – it "is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."
Which means lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits.
Worse, it could mean that a government employee, say, a DMV worker, could refuse to give a teenager a driver's test, if they perceive them to be LGBTQ. Or perhaps a police officer might decide to not respond to a domestic violence call because the couple is same-sex. Maybe an EMS worker would refuse to help a person they think is transgender because it goes against their religious beliefs.
How are these examples to be handled, in the moment, without the law being specific and explicit? And who is harmed while the courts battle it out?
Freedom Indiana today "condemned Senate Bill 66 as a dangerous piece of legislation that would thrust the state back into the national spotlight created by last year's Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and bring about even more legal and reputational challenges for the state," the LGBT civil rights group said today in a statement.
"Not only would it reopen the national and international wounds caused by last year's discriminatory RFRA legislation," Freedom Indiana campaign manager Chris Paulsen added, "it would make it easier to discriminate against any group currently or potentially protected under our civil rights law. Just when you thought lawmakers had learned a lesson from RFRA, a handful of them have decided to breathe life into a 'Super RFRA.'"
Professor Robert Katz of the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law told the Indy Star Young's bill "would effectively amend the Indiana Bill of Rights to create a two-tiered system of rights."
Meanwhile, Professor Daniel O. Conkle of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington told the Indy Star the bill "goes well beyond religious freedom."
Conkle "offered an example to illuminate how Senate Bill 66 could enhance protections for the right to bear arms. Under this legislation, if the government wanted to ban switchblades — as it did for decades — it would have to demonstrate a compelling interest for a statewide prohibition."
The first question Sen. Young and other lawmakers should be forced to answer is, what's happened all of a sudden that there's a need for this legislation?
And the first question Gov. Mike Pence needs to answer is, does he want to subject his state to another episode of international outrage, further damaging the Hoosier economy he wrecked last year, or will he send a message to lawmakers to place their attention on Hoosiers' real needs?
Image: Screenshot via YouTube