Magazine article The Christian Century

Religious Rights and Wrongs

Magazine article The Christian Century

Religious Rights and Wrongs

Article excerpt

Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, was the first Indiana business to say it would claim a right under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act not to provide services at gay weddings. The restaurant was quickly besieged by protests, but it also became a cause celebre for so-called defenders of religious freedom, who raised $800,000 for the pizzeria through an online campaign.

Organizations as different as NASCAR, the NCAA, Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, and the Disciples of Christ protested the discriminatory impact of Indiana's law when it was passed in late March. Several groups decided to pull their conventions out of Indianapolis. The outcry forced the legislature and governor to revise the bill to clarify that businesses and services cannot use the claim of religious freedom to discriminate based on a client's sexual orientation.

That was a needed fix. But Indiana's law remains problematic in extending religious freedom not only to individuals but also to corporations, and in applying not only to disputes between individuals and the government but to disputes between nongovernmental parties.

When the original federal RFRA was passed in 1993 and endorsed almost unanimously by Congress and by virtually every religious body, it was aimed at protecting the religious expression of minorities in the face of government rules. It had in mind the Native Americans who ritually consumed peyote or Muslim prisoners who grew beards for religious reasons. …

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