On March 26, 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, a bill that shamefully provides a legal defense for discrimination in the Hoosier state.

Specifically, the RFRA allows individuals, businesses, and religious organizations in the state to utilize religious beliefs as a legal defense.

However, unlike in other states where RFRA laws are present, Indiana has no statewide legal protection for the equal protection of the LGBTQ+ community, including in matters of religion.

Thus, in combination with intentionally vague language, the Indiana RFRA law provides state-sanctioned legal protection for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals wishing to do business in the state.

Since the signing of the Indiana RFRA, an outpouring of condemnation against the law has been voiced nationwide.

Since the RFRA’s signing, a multitude of states, entertainers, politicians, and businesses have stood up to oppose the discrimination currently signed into Indiana law.

For example, both the states of Connecticut and Washington have enacted bans on state-funded travel to Indiana, the rock band Wilco cancelled an upcoming show in Indianapolis, and 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton stated that she was “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.”

Businesses in the United States have voiced their protest as well, with the $4 billion software company Salesforce having announced plans to reduce investment in Indiana, and the NCAA deciding to rediscuss hosting the Final Four in the state again in the future.

Gov. Pence’s RFRA law is not only backwards and discriminatory but also economically harmful to Indiana.

In response to the overwhelming public outcry against to the bill, Gov. Pence and Republican state legislators have attempted to deny that the RFRA is meant to allow for discrimination yet their actions tell a far different story.

In the days leading up to the RFRA’s final vote and signing, Democratic legislators issued multiple amendments to clarify that the bill was not aimed at allowing discrimination yet Republicans voted down every attempt to protect the equal rights of all individuals.

Furthermore, in a recent interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Gov. Pence refused six times to answer whether or not the RFRA bill allows discrimination. Gov. Pence and state Republicans have clearly allowed their own personal prejudices to cloud their judgment in allowing such an odious bill as the RFRA to become law.

After an onslaught of negative publicity, Gov. Pence has finally pledged to “fix” the RFRA in clarifying that discrimination will not be tolerated under law.

However, if Gov. Pence is serious about promoting a positive image of Indiana, he will go further and repeal the RFRA and finally insert provisions into law protecting the LGBTQ+ community as equal under the law as well.

Indiana is not a state of bigotry but a state known for its hospitality; Gov. Pence needs to learn that Hoosiers won’t allow discrimination to take root in our state.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch.

Contact Michael Peterson at torchnews@valpo.edu.

I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I ask anyone reading this to remain open-minded.

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed by Governor Pence is not some evil law set out to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community. It is meant to protect peoples’ first amendment right of Freedom of Religion.

Nineteen states and the Federal government have all passed RFRAs. Bill Clinton signed the first one into law in 1993.

President Barack Obama voted for Illinois’ RFRA during his time in the Illinois Legislature. There was no uproar when either of these bills became laws and both of those laws had virtually the same language as the one signed by Gov. Pence last week.

The federal RFRA, signed by Bill Clinton in 1993 reads: “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (1) is furtherance of a compelling government interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Indiana’s RFRA, signed by Mike Pence, reads:“A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of further that compelling governmental interest.”

This law has been incredibly misinterpreted. This law is meant to protect individuals so that they can freely practice their religion without interference from the government.

Take for example, many Muslims have facial hair for religious purposes but facial hair is not allowed in prisons. This law would allow Muslim prisoners to have facial hair.

This law lets people to continue practicing their religion freely.

Same goes for women who wear a hijab and need to get a driver’s license photo. Normally, people are not allowed to wear headwear, but Muslim women get a religious exception.

It’s important to treat all individuals with respect and integrity. For some people this means defending their freedom to practice their religion.

Consider this: A group of Christians who believe that the Bible says that the same-sex marriage is wrong holds an event in protest of same-sex marriage. They ask a local caterer to cater their event, but the caterer is gay. Does the caterer have the right to deny service to this group? If so, he would be discriminating against these people because of their religion.

If we want equality, we must treat all groups equal.

Moving forward, Gov. Pence and the Indiana Legislature has decided to amend or clarify the law to recognize that discrimination is not allowed under this law.

This may be necessary to ensure proper execution of this law. We will see the implications of this law play out in court cases, and will typically lead to decisions on a case by case basis.

There is no black or white. We must be tolerant and accepting of all, no matter religion or sexual orientation.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch.

Contact Alexandrea Griffin at torchnews@valpo.edu.

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