The backlash against Indiana’s religious freedom bill doesn’t look good for people who wish to be left alone to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs. Money talks, and if enough money walks, Indiana may be compelled to eliminate the constitutional freedoms of both religion and speech (both are at stake here).

Here is the key part of Bill 101 (emphasis mine):

Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) 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 a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

The bill says this freedom of religion applies to individuals, religious organizations, and businesses.

Bill 101 protects florists, bakers, and photographers who have a religious objection to participating in a non-conjugal, non-monogamous marriage. It would also permit religious organizations to employ and admit only those people who abide by the organization’s moral code. This seems reasonable.

Opponents fear it will allow any business to discriminate for any flimsy reason, as long as it claims it’s a strongly held religious objection. But the bill covers this. It allows the government to compel restaurants and hotels to serve all comers. The government only needs to show it has a compelling interest to do so (and the other options are worse), which should be easy enough to do.

Some opponents, such as this USA Today columnist, say the law enshrines bigotry and tells homosexual youth “that they don’t matter, that their lives have less worth.” I read the entire bill, and I didn’t find that anywhere. I’m not sure how saying, “I love you and will bake you a cake for anything except your wedding” can be taken to mean, “You don’t matter and your life is worth less than mine.”

But that’s where we are. I don’t want to be part of the culture wars. I wish both sides could give each other the freedom to live as they see fit. But that may no longer be possible, even in Indiana.







17 responses to “Indiana”

  1. Bill Dodge

    I see no reason I should not bake the cake for the wedding as a believer. I think the great commandment tells me to do this. It begins to look pharisaical when we start saying NO to people who are coming to us to purchase our services. Did the apostle Paul discriminate who he made tents for? I doubt it.

  2. mikewittmer

    So it wouldn’t be a violation of your conscience then, though it would for many others. They believe the great commandment instructs them to love others, which means not participating in acts that are harmful.

  3. Gary

    Maybe we can break the Gordian knot with this: What if Christian bakers/photographers/etc. clearly and openly advertise that 25% of all proceeds (or even higher) received from gay patrons will go toward Christian organizations that uphold and celebrate traditional marriage between one man and one woman? Do we really think that LGBT advocates will support our cause, viz., biblical marriage? Knowing that they are directly contributing to causes that they view as being “offensive” may motivate them to shop elsewhere. And leave Christians alone.

  4. So you believe that corporations are people. They have the same rights as people. All the way down the line. I find that to be troublesome. It has led to some pretty frightening results.

  5. mikewittmer

    Interesting idea, Gary. That does seem discriminatory, unless they said 25% of all proceeds (not just from gay couples) would go to some cause that supports traditional marriage. I’m not sure if most florists could afford that and stay in business, and it does seem a bit mean (I think gay couples would rightly feel it was a slap in the face).

  6. mikewittmer

    Robert: I am not aware of the consequences you speak of. There may be something I’m missing here, but if I ran a business, I would feel obligated to God to run it according to his principles. I don’t think I’ll get a pass at the Last Judgment if I say that it wasn’t me who built the casino or sold weapons to the guerillas, it was just my company. Corporations are more than just the people who run them, but they are not less. If the Kuyperian worldview taught me anything, it’s that I can’t separate my life into parts. I must live the whole thing for him.

  7. Gary

    Mike: Admittedly, my idea sounds discriminatory but only on the surface. And I’m certain our very own POTUS would find it “unfair.” However, And I am unaware of any statute that forbids me to spend my money (from any source, no matter how specific) as I choose. With this approach, I would not be refusing to serve the LGBT community, which is what is being set forth as that which is illegal and/or unconstitutional. Certainly, a “softer” approach would be to state that a certain percentage of ALL proceeds will be donated to “One Man – One Woman Marriage Ministries – a Strong Supporter of Traditional Marriage.” Either way, lesbian couple Julie & Judy will know where some of their shekels will be spent. And I think they’ll find someone else to bake their cake. And I certainly don’t believe for a single second that they’re having a difficult time finding a baker. They’re having a difficult time with a baker whose ethics and worldview challenges theirs.

  8. Mike,
    Hey, I’m as Kuyperian as the next guy! (Well, maybe not if the next guy is Herman Dooyweerd).
    But that being said, I don’t think this issue (like most in a civil society) is as cut-and-dried as either side of the debate would like it to be.
    I am honesty struggling to find the integrative way of looking at this.

    If some Christians create a corporation so that they can make a profit making cakes for weddings, then they do so for the cause of helping the common good as well as making a profit and limiting their liability. Then somebody gets food poisoning from one of their cakes, but they are personally protected from liability because it is the company’s fault, not their own. So the company can be sued but their personal assets are protected. This separation allows them to be limited in their liability. But then on the other hand, they want to say that they do not want to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding on religious grounds. They want to have the benefits of the corporation being a separate entity at the same time they want the corporation to be an extension of their individuality. It’s much more complicated than might seem at first blush, isn’t it?

    As a Kuyperian, I believe:
    1) Redeemed human beings are called to live out their calling to participate in God’s mission in and through their work.
    2) We are commanded to seek and to pray for the shalom of the “Babylon” in which we find ourselves.
    3) God wants Christians to work in every sphere of culture, including starting and running businesses.
    4) All of this often means making decisions in our work to DO some things and making decisions to NOT do other things, each of which will have consequences because of the fact that we live in “Babylon.”

    As an American I believe:
    1) That corporations are a necessity for a robust capitalistic economy.
    2) Corporations exist because people need to work together in unity to get things accomplished. Practically, a corporation is created to establish a SEPARATE entity from the people running it in order to limit legal liability. Corporations are seen as human beings as a “legal fiction” so that they can freely speak about their products and policies and be held accountable in what they do. People are to sue a company, like they’d sue a person, if it causes a huge oil spill or if it violates labor laws.
    3) Initially, the privilege of incorporation was granted selectively by local governmental authority with set conditions for the corporations: The corporate charters were revoked if a corporation went beyond the scope of business for which it was chartered or if they caused public harm. Owners and managers were responsible for criminal acts committed on the job. And corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making. All this has dropped away – corporations exist perpetually, are often not tied to a specific locality, the owners and managers are separate from the liability of the corporation, and now (thanks to Citizen’s United), they can contribute to political campaigns.
    4) After the Civil War in 1868, the 14th Amendment was adopted to grant emancipated slaves full citizenship. “No state shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws.” In 1886, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority (in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Rail Road) bestowed human life to Southern Pacific Rail Road, saying that the 14th Amendment applied to corporations, not just freed slaves.
    5) But corporate “humans” possess some rather “sub”-human attributes: they have no souls, no consciences in and of themselves (even though these entities are run by people who do). Therefore the decisions made by a corporation can, and often are, based more on stakeholder profits rather than on empathy. The immoral decisions of the leaders of corporations do not come back on the heads of those individuals, the corporation itself bears the responsibility. But…
    6) Corporate “humans” have some rather “super”-human attributes as well: they can live forever and cannot be thrown in jail for their crimes. So, after the mortgage-fraud that caused the 2008 financial crisis, no death penalty for Goldman Sachs, and only one (!) Wall Street exec went to jail. Also, “Super”-human corporations have much more assets at their disposal than that of the normal individual human being. This last one is the problem with the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision – A corporation’s “freedom of speech” means that it can spend whatever it wants on political campaigns. This tilts the balance of fairness in politics to entities without souls or consciences, entities that are most often interested in passing laws only for the sake of its profits.

    In what ways is a corporation a human being with constitutional rights? If they are given the rights to free speech and religious exercise, should they also be given the right to bear arms? Should corporations be allowed to create their own mini-armies? Should they be given the right to privacy so that they do not need to publicly declare their assets?
    Lots of questions in this Pandora’s Box of corporate personhood.
    So I am finding that this is not all that easy to bring together so simply.

  9. mikewittmer

    Thanks, Bob. I figured there was a lot I didn’t know! 🙂

    I think you’re right, there are senses in which a corporation is an extension of a person and some senses in which they are not. I would think that since there is nothing more personal or important or foundational than a person’s religious belief, it would seem wise to allow that component to transfer to his or her business. The uproar in Indiana is setting a dangerous precedent. If we can punish people who refuse to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, then everyone is at risk. Right now it seems that the progressive religion is oppressing the heretics who disagree, but those same progressives may find themselves on the other end should the religion change. First they came for the Jews, and I said nothing….

    I agree that corporations shield people from legal and economic accountability (a travesty in the Wall Street shenanigans of 2008). But I’m sure you don’t believe that corporations provide a moral shield. Those Wall Street execs who didn’t go to jail will face the judgment of God. It seems that the florists and bakers who believe God is serious about traditional marriage are more concerned about this moral liability, which no legal incorporation can protect them from.

  10. I am with you, as my post in reply to David Gushee shows (see ).

    But I admit to waffling on this one.
    (1) Because of the legitimate concerns that Gushee suggests, even though I refute many of them,
    (2) Because our loving witness while in Babylon is at risk, and
    (3) Because I worry that this can lead to very clear hypocrisy when pharisaic stipulations on serving the public are made like this. A baker can therefore refuse to bake the cake for a heterosexual couple if one of them is a divorcee or if they have had a baby out of wedlock, or if she suspects that the groom just looked down her blouse, or if she believes that the bride is too vain, or if the couple are not Christian (since all non-Christians are heathens).

    As much as I don’t think that the present gay rights agenda is equal to our nation’s past civil rights agenda, according to this thinking, a university that sincerely believes on religious grounds that blacks are inferior can refuse to admit them. (Remember that this was not too long ago at Bob Jones University). Or a Christian restaurant owner can refuse to serve anybody based solely on his belief that the person is living in sin. Or a Christian-owned bus company can refuse rides to anybody on religious grounds. Or a Christian in Real Estate can refuse to sell a house not only to gays, but to all those he believes are guilty of the sins of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

  11. mikewittmer

    I like your response to Gushee. I think we are on the same page. I do think that none of the examples you list after BJU actually occur in the real world. I have never heard of a restaurant owner refusing to feed a person for any reason. We need to be careful not to allow some imaginary slippery slope distract us from the real world. Our society needs to balance the human rights of homosexuals and those who object to participating in their unions. We won’t achieve balance if we ascribe the most outlandish scenarios to one side.

    Did you see Ross Douthat’s blog today? He raised the issue, something which CU leaders have considered, that this homosexual issue may soon enough eliminate Christian universities tax exempt status, which would effectively shut them down. It is much more likely that I will lose my job over this than that a gay person will be refused service at a restaurant in Indiana.

  12. That is, sadly, all too true.

  13. Joey

    Here’s a question for you Mike, where does the culpability lie between the Christian (as the seller in the market place) and the buyer. For example, the pharmacist who sells birth control to potentially unmarried people, the store owner selling cigarettes, the move theater owner who shows any kind of movie, or the gun shot ower who sells to anybody. Who will God hold responsible? Is it strictly with the buyer or does the seller take some of the responsibility too.

  14. Mike,
    I feel I have to push back on your statement “I do think that none of the examples you list after BJU actually occur in the real world. I have never heard of a restaurant owner refusing to feed a person for any reason. We need to be careful not to allow some imaginary slippery slope distract us from the real world.”

    I believe that this IS the real world. People for millennia have been using religion as the means by which to discriminate against people. It happens all around the world today. It happens in the USA today. We had, based on religious conviction, just those kinds of things happen to blacks in our lifetime. Legal precedent is indeed the very means of slippery slopes in our nation.

    This is why these things are so much more complicated than people want to believe they are. Folks want to say, “Hey, it’s only…” No, it’s more than that – it creates a precedent that, when applied consistently in other circumstances, can have long-range ramifications.

  15. But we agree that there is a clearly a difference between serving customers generally in a non-discriminatory fashion and being forced by the government to participate in an event that is fundamentally at odds with your religious beliefs. As long as religious freedom laws keep that distinction clear, I’m all for them.

  16. mikewittmer

    Bob: What I meant was that I have not heard of a restaurant refusing to serve a gay person. Neither do I think this is likely to happen. The examples that you brought up and that some say they fear may happen don’t seem realistic. When the NCAA says they fear for their homosexual ticket holders, I think “really?” Are you really afraid that anyone with a ticket will be refused entrance, be mistreated in any way, or be shown the door in a restaurant?

    The only refusal of service that I have heard about involves participating in a wedding. When one side brings up these other possible scenarios, they seem like red herrings meant to make the other side seem like monsters.

  17. mikewittmer

    Good question, Joey. My initial thought is that the seller is responsible for what he or she sells. There is a distinction between the employer and employee–the higher up the food chain the more responsibility, but that doesn’t mean there’s none down below. I know pharmacists who wrestle with the morality of some of the drugs they sell. It also matters if your product is a good thing that can be used for evil or if its only use is evil. I wouldn’t say selling a gun is inherently evil, as many people use them for sport and others for protection. A gun seller who didn’t sell responsibly would be held accountable, as I believe they are in our country.

    Regarding the florist, I would think the owner of the business would bear more responsibility than an employee. This is why the cases so far have involved business owners rather than their staff.

    There is also a difference between intent. I don’t think a florist should object to a gay couple picking up a few flowers from their showroom as they went to their wedding. The florist prepared these flowers for general sale, and shouldn’t object when someone uses this general purchase for an activity she might not desire. The situation seems different when the florist signs a contract to use her talents to serve the wedding. Florists don’t just sell flowers to a wedding, they serve the wedding, often giving a day or two to preparing and decorating the auditorium and then maintaining the flowers.

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