Is Opposition to the RFRA Really Against Tolerance?

Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act really against tolerance? 

The Keating Center has posted about the concept of “tolerance” before. Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University poses the question- “How in the name of coexistence and tolerance, and all that is implied by Webster’s definition of these words, can anyone extolling such inclusive language possibly considered Indiana’s RFRA a bad law? Stop and think about it. The explicit premise of this proposed bill says this, and no more than this: No government entity should have power over religious expression if there is a less restrictive way…”

Is this bill a license to discriminate like many headlines have proclaimed? Or does it protect people’s sincerely held beliefs? Consider these questions, before deciding:

  • Should the Jewish owner of a local meat processing business be forced to butcher pigs for a local anti-Semite farmer?
  • Should the owner of a halal deli be forced to provide catering for a Jewish bar mitzvah?
  • Should the Muslim owner of a local newspaper be forced to print Charlie Hebdo cartoons?
  • Should a Catholic grocer be forced to sell bread and wine to a Satanist church for a mock Eucharist?
  • Should a Muslim baker be forced to bake a wedding cake for his neighbor’s gay “wedding”?
  • Should a gay business owner be forced to provide a cake inscribed with a text condemning homosexual “marriage”?
  • Should a Hindu who strictly adheres to Ahimsa be forced to run a billboard campaign for Echrich or Hormel Foods?
  • Should a PETA compliant marketing firm be forced to produce billboards to sell mink coats and rabbit hats?

We hope your answer to these questions is no. Because as Dr. Piper wrote, “How in the world could forcing these people to violate their conscience (whether you agree with them or not) be considered the “least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest?” Surely it is clear that all of the potential customers cited above could easily find other means of securing their desired products and services. There are clearly other options that would be much “less restrictive” to all concerned. Forced compliance to the contrary surely smacks more of totalitarianism than it does of tolerance.”

If we are going to discuss the RFRA, as Dr. Piper pointed out on the O’Reilly Factor, we must first define our terms. What do we mean by “tolerance?”

Is this bill really about discrimination? Or is about protecting individual’s rights? Is opposition to the bill really about tolerance? “Let’s be clear, opposition to the Indiana RFRA isn’t about tolerance,” says Dr. Piper. “It is about tyranny and it is about power. It’s about forcing others to agree with your religion or behavioral choices under threat of legal penalty.”


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