Selective Outrage over Religious Freedom
Liberals are in a lather over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The bill was passed by the people’s representatives in the state legislature by a vote of 63-31, and then signed into law by the governor. Listening to the outcry, one would think Indiana adopted Mein Kampf as its governing charter.
Oh wait, an Obama administration official claimed just that, Tweeting that the people of Indiana “Vote for Nazis to govern.” Apple CEO Tim Cook joined the chorus, “Calling the Indiana law and others like it dangerous and pro-discrimination.”
Update: The official, Elizabeth Asahck, is claiming her Twotter account was "hacked," according to Breitbart.
Along with the “Nazi” tweet, Ashack removed the fact that she is a government employee from her Twitter bio.
Sir Charles Barkley is also upset, “Calling on officials to move next week's March Madness Final Four tournament out of the state.” Sure Charles, it’s simple to move an event of that size to another city with a weeks notice. Even the NCAA itself has piled on saying, “We intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."
This is true March Madness. A kneejerk politically correct response without any thoughtful examination of the facts. Much like the bogus “Hands up don’t shoot” meme, which was built on lies and false rumors.
Let’s boycott Indiana, but not any of the other 19 states that have enacted similar religious freedom laws. Including neighboring states Kentucky and Illinois. Politifact reminds us, “As an Illinois state senator, Obama did vote for a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It passed the Illinois Senate 56-0 and became law on July 1, 1998.” What’s notable is that this was one of the few times then-Senator Obama actually voted for something rather than simply voting “present.”
Will the President boycott the NCAA basketball tournament over this law? With two of his bracket picks making it to the Final Four, he will likely be watching the games, despite the calls from many of his supporters to boycott or move the final games. Will Tim Cook or Sir Charles boycott President Obama?
The other inconvenient truth is that there was once upon a time a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act introduced by Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid’s potential replacement. “The bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 97 to 3 in 1993,” according to TIME and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Where was the outrage and protest then? Old news? What difference does it make?
Interestingly the NY Times denounces the Indiana law as a “Republican-led measure.” When the US Congress or the Illinois state legislature passed similar laws, did the NY Times decry their passage as “Democrat-led measures”? I doubt it.
What exactly is so controversial about this Indiana law? It “Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion,” unless there is a “compelling governmental interest.”
Maybe this is why the left is in a lather, as their worldview is that most of what we do in our mundane daily lives is a “compelling interest” of the government. What light bulbs we buy, how warm or cool we keep our homes, what size soft drinks we order, whether we sprinkle salt on our food, and so on.
One man’s compelling government interest is another man’s liberty or pursuit of happiness. As I wrote last year, what is the compelling government interest in whether a Christian baker chooses to not bake a cake for a same sex wedding? Or whether a kosher Jewish deli refuses to serve a ham and cheese sandwich? Or whether a Muslim printer declines to print copies of a Mohammed cartoon?
These are the freedoms enshrined by the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If a Muslim female wears a hijab to school, this is a constitutionally protected right. Why are bakers and photographers not afforded the same constitutional protections?
Indiana, along with 19 other states, enacted a law allowing its residents to practice their religion free from government scrutiny. It took the 20th such state law to garner the attention of the left. Don’t like the Indiana law, then visit another nearby state. But not Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, or Pennsylvania as they have similar laws. Let’s see the NCAA cancel its biggest event of the year over this. Hands up, don’t shoot (the basketball).
Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Twitter @retinaldoctor.