(Just kidding but Indiana may be protecting those who discriminate)


Joel Stinnett, Editor-in-Chief

Have you heard the one where Charles Manson, Bobby Knight and a gay couple walk into a bar?

No, the bartender doesn’t banish the king of helter skelter in disgust. No, the cocktail waitresses don’t begin frantically hiding every folding chair in sight just in case someone yells, “Hey Knight, what’s up?” Actually, the bar owner gets a copy of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and tells the gay couple that, by law, they are not welcome in his establishment because he is a Christian.

Hahaha, I bet you didn’t see that punchline coming! Because it’s more like a punch in the gut.

Last Thursday Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a private ceremony inside his office.

The bill in essence, allows business or governmental officials to refuse services if it is a burden on their religious convictions. It would also prevent any future, current or past employees from taking legal action against a business if it pertains to that business’s religious beliefs.

This bill is similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by President Clinton that only applies to federal law.

There is some doubt about whether a situation like the one I described would actually be held up in court. Many are afraid that this state bill will supersede local anti-discrimination laws. If nothing else it will surely give some business owners the perception that discrimination is legal. Governor Pence claims that this law will not allow for any discrimination. The SUPPORTERS of the bill however disagree with him.

Advance America, self-described as Indiana’s “largest pro-family, pro-church, pro-private and home school, and pro-tax reform organization,” says that SB101 will protect bakers, florists and photographers who refuse to participate in weddings of homosexuals. They say it will also protect Christians from those supporting “government recognition and approval of gender identity (male cross-dressers).”

My understanding of discrimination is making a distinction in favor of or against a person on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person belongs rather than according to actual merit. If so, refusing to bake a cake that will be decorated with two little plastic men holding hands on top of it sounds like discrimination to me.

While Pence and Advance America might disagree whether the law allows for discrimination, Pence is featured in a YouTube video on the home page of the group praising its founder and saying that Indiana owes Advance America a debt of gratitude for, “making this state a better place.”

Not everyone agrees.

Since this bill was passed, at least three large conventions, carrying an economic impact of over $56 million, have threatened to hold their events elsewhere. This includes The Disciples of Christ, a Christian Church who says they will change the location of its 2017 convention because of the law.

The bill is also having an economic impact in the corporate world. Shortly after the bill was signed,’s CEO announced that the company will no longer be sending employees or customers to Indiana. bought an Indianapolis based marketing software company last year for $2.5 billion, and now they want to leave the state.

There could be other unseen complications hidden within the law as well. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is afraid that the bill could be used as a defense in criminal trials. For example, if someone were to assassinate an abortion doctor, they could argue that they acted in the name of religious freedom.

The bill will surely protect businesses and universities from being forced to offer birth control as part of their employee health plans, as well as any medical procedure they see as conflicting with their religion, of which there could be dozens.

There have also been instances in other states of doctors refusing to treat the infant children of same sex couples.

Even the NCAA, an organization that does not allow its athletes to get a summer job, or even the right to their own signature, thinks that the bill infringes on individual freedom. The organization said Thursday that they would have to re-evaluate how this law would affect future events in the state, as well as their workforce which is headquartered in Indianapolis.

Pence should have seen this coming.

Many of these organizations warned him ahead of time that they did not want to do business in a state that their members did not feel welcome.

Even if this law somehow ends up not being used for discrimination, Pence should have known that perception is reality. And the reality for Pence and the state of Indiana is that they both look out of touch and intolerant to the rest of the country.

One way to show the world that not all Hoosiers are bigots is to sign the petition to recall Governor Pence. Indiana does not have a law that would allow the recall of a governor but it will send the message that not everyone stands with this bill. Simply go to and search “Mike Pence.”

Perhaps the best way to fight this law, and any future efforts to promote discrimination, is to vote out of office all the lawmakers who approved it. Go to to see how your lawmaker voted. For the record, state representative from New Albany, and IUS graduate, Ed Clere voted against the bill.

After signing the bill into law Gov. Pence released this statement.

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith. The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

The governor’s statement begs two simple questions: How and who in the government is attacking religion? And should people of faith be given special protection under the law to openly discriminate against others? A protection that is not given to the average citizen.

According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research there are approximately 350,000 congregations in the U.S., and none of them pay taxes to the government that is “attacking” them.

Considering the fact that it is not a protection given to every citizen, the bill would be more appropriately named “The Freedom to Impose Religion on Others Act.”

Not everyone believes in the mandates of a 2,000 year old book, and part of living in this country is not only the freedom of religion but the freedom FROM religion. Unless the lawmakers change the wording of this bill to allow ALL Indiana citizens the right to discriminate against one another, the bill itself is discriminatory.

Of course, no one would want that. And likely, neither would the namesake of Christianity. I am one to believe that a man who hung out with prostitutes and lepers would think that denying anyone equal treatment based on anything other than merit is…well, not a very Christian thing to do.