Why 'RFRA' Is America's Latest Four-Letter Word
Image: Danny Johnston / AP Images

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once warned that too much religious freedom would be “courting anarchy.”

This week, his prophecy came true—at least on the airwaves and in social media.

Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed in the wake of legal same-sex marriage for Hoosiers, caused widespread and angry debate. Critics say the Indiana law—and a pending religious liberty law in Arkansas—gives religious people a free pass to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Supporters like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence say the law is needed to protect believers who feel under siege.

In the wake of the controversy, governors in Connecticut, Washington, and New York banned state employees from traveling to Indiana, while Star Trek actor and Twitter celebrity George Takei organized a #BoycottIndiana campaign. Corporate giant Wal-Mart, headquartered in Arkansas, has asked that state’s governor to veto the bill on his desk.

Under pressure, Pence has asked lawmakers to revise the law so that it can’t be used to discriminate.

Still few critics, as The Washington Post points out, seems to know or care what the law in question actually says. They just want to fight about it.

At the heart of the issue: the once-obscure federal RFRA law, which was signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, with broad support from Democrats and Republicans alike. Similar laws have been passed in 20 states, including one in Illinois that then-state-senator Barack Obama voted for.

The law protects religious minorities such as the Amish, Sikhs, and prisoners whose beliefs clash with federal or state laws.

“Because of RFRA, we don’t let whatever bureaucrats ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueDefending the Faith (of Others)
Defending the Faith (of Others) Subscriber Access Only
Russian evangelicals’ hesitancy to back Jehovah’s Witnesses could backfire.
RecommendedTrump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers
Trump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers
Prayer breakfast pledge to ‘totally destroy’ Johnson Amendment comes up shy; conscience exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination rules missing.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickSasse: Adolescence Is a Gift, but Extended Adolescence Is a Trap
Ben Sasse: Adolescence Is a Gift, but Extended Adolescence Is a Trap
The Nebraska senator wants parents to get serious about shepherding kids into responsible adulthood.
Christianity Today
Why 'RFRA' Is America's Latest Four-Letter Word
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

April 2015

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.