Not a license to discriminate

Posted by: Kim Heffner  | Friday, March 27, 2015

Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), was recently signed into law by the Governor and has generated much discussion throughout the state and beyond. As legislators who voted for RFRA, we think it is important to clarify what this bill does and show why this is needed in Indiana.

RFRA establishes a judicial standard of review which will provide the courts with clear guidance on how to resolve any matters that come forth surrounding religious freedom. More than 30 states have already instituted some variation of RFRA. In addition, RFRA has been applied at the federal level since 1993 when it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA does not apply to state and local laws and Indiana’s case law is not clear on these issues. Indiana’s RFRA assures that our state courts follow the same reasoning that the federal courts and 30 other states follow when they weigh these issues.

An example of a case to which RFRA was applied is the recent Hobby Lobby case. Obamacare required that Hobby Lobby pay for its employees’ abortion-inducing drugs, which violated the owners’ religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that RFRA entitled the business owners to an exemption from the regulation because the religious accommodation would not require any of the female employees to do without the drugs.

To those who think this law gives business owners a license to discriminate, we would point out that RFRA can be used only as a defense against government action. In 22 years of this standard being applied at the federal and state level, discrimination has never materialized. RFRA does not give a license to discriminate, rather it protects every Hoosier’s first amendment rights regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.


Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) represents a portion of Johnson County.

Rep. Dave Frizzell (R-Indianapolis) represents a portion of Marion and Johnson counties.

Rep. John Price (R-Greenwood) represents portions of Johnson and Morgan Counties.