A New Kind of Tolerance

There seems to be a new kind of tolerance in town. Headlines screaming with indignation over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) can be found in several news organizations. Liberals will just not tolerate it. What won’t they tolerate, you may ask? Religion. 

A media battle is playing out: religion vs. a liberal political agenda. Many of the articles from the media about the RFRA recently passed in Indiana center around a supposed discrimination against homosexuals, however, those headlines are just adding to the noise, instead of contributing actual facts to the conversation. There is actually no language in the RFRA about discriminating against homosexuals. The law does not promote intolerance against the homosexual community, although many of the protestors  of the law do not tolerate what the law does actually promote: individual’s religious rights.

The Indiana RFRA is modeled after the federal law, and both laws have restrictions. According to the Wall Street Journal, “both the federal and Indiana laws require courts to administer a balancing test when reviewing cases that implicate the free exercise of religion. To wit: Individuals must show that their religious liberty has been ‘substantially burdened,’ and the government must demonstrate its actions represent the least restrictive means to achieve a “compelling” state interest.”

Why does the phrase “substantially burdened” matter? Well, it matters because detractors of the law claim the law “would empower, say, florists or wedding photographers to refuse to work a gay wedding on religious grounds. But under the RFRA test, such a commercial vendor would still have to prove that his religious convictions were substantially burdened. And he [or she] would also come up against the reality that most courts have found that the government has a compelling interest in enforcing antidiscrimination laws,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Protecting an individual’s religious rights has been understood to be important in our society since the 90’s. In fact, the liberals who are now protesting the law, used to be for it. Our president even voted for it when he was a senator!

As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Liberals used to understand that RFRA, with its balancing test, was a good-faith effort to help society compromise on contentious moral disputes. That liberals are renouncing it 20 years after celebrating it says more about their new intolerance than about anyone in Indiana.”

To find out more about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, check out the Keating Center posts about Passing the Bill, and What the RFRA Really Is.


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