When Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), he was blindsided by the firestorm of opposition that ignited in response. By now, I am sure you have seen news pieces, social media posts, etc. because it seems to be everywhere.
Governor Pence could not have anticipated this level of response since Indiana’s legislation was patterned after the federal version of the law that was passed more than 20 years ago. The federal version was introduced in the House by then Representative Chuck Schumer and into the Senate by Ted Kennedy. The bill passed the House unanimously and the Senate by a vote of 97-3.
After the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA could not be applied to state laws, 19 other states passed their own versions. Two other states have similar bills in the pipeline now. In 1998, then state Senator Barack Obama voted for the Illinois version of the bill. That bill is almost identical to the one in Indiana.
The first real opposition to RFRA legislation came last year when the Arizona legislature passed its version. Several progressive groups voiced concerns about the bill followed by the NFL voicing its opposition to the bill. This created concern that the NFL would move the Super Bowl that was scheduled in Arizona for 2015. In response, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill giving RFRA its first defeat.
The timing of the legislation has fueled the fire of the controversy. The courts struck down Indiana’s marriage amendment in October of last year, forcing same-sex marriage on the state. The passage of the bill so soon after the court’s action and so close to the Supreme Court taking up the issue of same-sex marriage led many to believe the sole reason for its passage was to allow for discrimination against gays in Indiana.
It’s the timing of the controversy that seems suspect. The courts have just overturned the will of the people in Indiana and it appears the Supreme Court is about to force same-sex marriage on the entire nation. Legal experts tell us this will elevate gender identity and sexual orientation to the level of race. This will result in the full weight of the government and the culture coming down on anyone who refuses to fully support same-sex marriage. Even churches and pastors will not be exempt. It seems this controversy is setting the stage to block any religious freedom objection to same-sex marriage.
Please join with Point of View as we pray for Governor Mike Pence and the members of the Indiana state legislature. Pray they will remain strong and steadfast in their defense of religious liberty. Pray as well for the Justices of the Supreme Court as they prepare for oral arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage in mid-April.