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Editorial: Discrimination law draws fire

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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A new state law in Indiana theoretically designed to protect the religious freedom of business has drawn widespread backlash because of concerns that the law will provide the basis for discrimination against the LGBT community.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on March 26 and has since drawn considerable criticism from influential members of the business community along with thousands of protesters who marched in Indianapolis on March 28.

While this law was not put in place to explicitly discriminate against the LGBT community, it does carry strong potential for misuse and justification of discrimination. Proponents of the law say it will “keep government from forcing business owners to act against their strongly held religious beliefs,” and in theory, this is a good thing. In practice however, those with an agenda composed of discriminatory practices could use this law.

This country was built on certain principles, most notably freedom to practice religion. That said, continued religious protections are necessary to ensure this country maintains an open and accommodating religious environment. However, this law in Indiana skirts the line of depriving citizens of civil liberties and protections in the name of preserving other civil liberties and protections.

The purpose of legislation should be to make society better and preserve the principles this country was founded on. At the same time, any legislation put in place that would effectively strip away some rights to conserve others is not a viable way to go about this. Freedom should be universal and extend to all; anything less than that is not freedom. One person’s rights should not come at the cost of others’ freedom. While the intentions of this law may be good, its potential implications detract too much from the overall good it could achieve.

The landscape for discrimination has changed drastically in modern times in that it requires substantial levels of subtlety to effectively legalize discrimination. Discrimination now lives in the omission of a key word or seemingly benign addenda. It is no longer enough to look for examples of blatant and blinding hate. In the world we live in now, the biggest threat to our freedom will not come in the form of whips and chains. All it will take is one poorly worded paragraph in a piece of legislation to unilaterally strip us of our rights. This is our reality.

There has been much progress in terms of securing the rights and freedoms of all citizens, but in the shadow of these successes are those who still wish to oppose the progression toward a totally just and fair society. Those who oppose universal freedom from discrimination still exist, and we cannot become complacent. It is not enough to blindly trust that institutions and lawmakers will act in our best interests.

Any action anywhere in the country that may deprive anyone of her or his freedom requires close scrutiny. Universal freedom from discrimination is within arm’s reach, but it will not come without a fight and attempts from the opposition to undo all the work so many have struggled to achieve. While this law in Indiana may prove not to be an example of such an attempt, it does serve as enough of a reminder to be watchful. It serves as enough of a remainder to sleep with one eye open, because when the attempt is made on your freedom it won’t come with a knock on your front door, it will sneak up on you when you aren’t paying attention.


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