With the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, Indiana became the 31st state in the nation to enact some form of religious protection into statute. Unfortunately, I have noticed considerable amounts of misinformation surrounding this issue and have received multiple questions regarding it. That is why I would like to take this opportunity to provide some clarity as well as discuss what this law will and will not do.
In 1993, the RFRA was passed by Congress almost unanimously and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled four years later that the federal law did not apply to the states. Since then, more than 30 states have established some variation of the RFRA, including our neighboring states. The adoption of the RFRA law will assure that our state courts follow the same reasoning and case law as the federal courts and the 30 other states when they weigh in on these issues.
Based off of the federal law, Indiana’s 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. Simply put, it protects the rights of everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.
Nevertheless, this issue continues to be mischaracterized, and one of the main misconceptions is that this law will give any business owner the license to discriminate. This is not true. This law is about tolerance for religious communities and beliefs and can only be used as a defense against government infringement, which has occurred in the past.
So, why Indiana and why now? Last year, the Hobby Lobby case was addressed by the U.S Supreme Court and helped shine a light on uncertainties on how these types of cases would be decided in Indiana. In that specific case, Obamacare required that Hobby Lobby pay for its employees’ abortion-inducing drug, and this went against 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.
In 22 years of this standard being applied at the federal and state level, discrimination has never materialized. Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky all have a heightened variation like the RFRA when considering government actions that surround issues regarding religious rights. More than likely, you have not seen a difference in the 30 other states that have RFRA or noticed a difference since 1993.
The RFRA has been greatly misunderstood. Hoosiers will likely not notice a difference, unless the government is overstepping its bounds when trying to restrict an individual from practicing their religious beliefs. For more questions or to view the actual bill, visit: www.IndianaHouseRepublicans.com To contact me with further questions, please email me at H74@iga.in.gov.