Yesterday I wrote an article about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law, but it turns out there is something important that I also missed, that I learned about this morning. (I might have picked it up if I had read the whole law more carefully, but I was a little short on time yesterday. Shame on me for not being more thorough.)
- The first is that Indiana’s law allows a private right of action. What that means is that an individual person — a baker, a florist, a restaurant owner — can sue a gay person individually, claiming that their religious freedom has been compromised. In all other cases, it is the state, in the form of the their Attorney General (or a proxy for the Attorney General) who must initiate the action.
- The second distinction is that the Indiana law, the statute provides protections to religious practices “whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” So, in effect the plaintiffs can seek to justify discriminatory practices based on religious practices that are fringe to their belief system.
According to the ThinkProgress article, the federal law that was signed by Bill Clinton back in 1993 was thought “to be about benign and relatively uncontroversial matters, such as allowing Muslim jail inmates to wear closely trimmed beards, or assuring that churches could feed homeless people in public parks.” Today, Indiana’s law is driven “by the politics of anti-gay backlash. Their most ardent supporters come from an increasingly angry, marginalized, and shrill subset of Christian conservative activists.”
I still think the original law was a bad idea, and I’m still making the case that all that’s needed to protect religious liberties is the First Amendment, which, as I like to point out, has worked well for 224 years. But these make the discriminatory intent of the drafters of the Indiana law all the more obvious.