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"Freedom of religion restoration"

So the State of Indiana just passed the "Freedom of Religion Restoration Act", which (IIUC) says essentially "No person or business shall be compelled to serve any customer if doing so would violate the person or business's religious beliefs," and similar laws are under discussion in numerous other states and the U.S. Congress.  The law is, of course, intended to allow (and even encourage) restaurants and caterers to refuse service to homosexuals, and pharmacists to refuse to sell contraceptives and abortifacients.  It also means a male Moslem taxi-driver isn't obligated to pick up an un-veiled, or even just unaccompanied, woman.  For that matter, combined with the long-standing (and justified) reluctance of the courts to decide what is and isn't a "legitimate" religion, it could easily mean a fireman isn't obligated to put out the fire at the house of ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}, a doctor or paramedic isn't obligated to save the life of ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}, etc.

Realistically, I think in the most egregious cases (firemen and doctors above), the internal standards of the profession would forbid what the law allows.  Jews and Moslems probably won't take much advantage of it because of fear of backlash; it's really intended to authorize the already-established majority to discriminate against minorities.  Businesses in large, cosmopolitan cities probably won't take much advantage of it because they'll alienate some of the customers they are willing to serve.  The real purpose of the law is symbolic, to give the religious-Republican base an adrenaline rush and reassure them that they, not the faggots or the Jews or whatever, are the real oppressed minority.  But in a small town without a lot of competition, it could make ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}s' lives difficult in lots of petty ways, thus further enouraging ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}s to move out of small towns into more-tolerant cities, making the country even more politically polarized than it already is.

[ETA: It just occurred to me to wonder: does the law apply to on-duty government employees?  If so, one can imagine an election worker refusing to give a ballot to a ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}, or a police officer refusing to answer a call from ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}, or a public defender refusing to defend a ${CATEGORY_OF_SINNER}....]

A similar law was defeated recently in Arizona when a Democratic state legislator successfully added an amendment saying "if you want to take advantage of this law, you have to post a publicly-visible sign at your place of business saying what categories of people you won't serve."  Which seems entirely reasonable -- if you have such strongly-held religious views, you should be willing to state them publicly, not only to the people you're refusing service -- and, even if the law had passed, probably would have prevented it from being invoked except in the most reactionary backwaters of the state.  But one could make a religious-freedom argument against such an amendment: "why should I be compelled to tell everyone my religious views?  Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

I mentioned the law at work, and one of my colleagues replied "if the government can force you to do business with somebody that you don't want to do business with, isn't that a form of slavery?"  And he has a point: business transactions are supposed to be voluntary on both sides.  But that reasoning would apply to any anti-discrimination law that affects the private sector.  Putting in the "religion" part is a dog-whistle, saying this is really aimed at allowing right-thinking red-blooded straight Christian Americans to discriminate against gays and non-Christians.  And if, after a few years, there's a move to take out the "religion" part and say simply "No person or business shall be compelled to serve any customer," returning to the days of "No Negroes will be seated at the counter," "We do not rent to Jews," "No Irish need apply," etc, then from a certain bigoted point of view, so much the better.


As I posted elsewhere, I'm tempted to go there simply to walk into places of business, identify myself as a "cradle Catholic", and inquire whether they'd have a problem with serving me. Indiana had a hell of a rep for overt anti-Catholic bigotry when I was coming up ...