Here's some great news out of Indiana! The Indiana House has passed a bill with a 63-31 vote to protect the religious liberty of business owners in the state.
SB 101, known as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” will be heading back to the Senate, where a similar version has already passed. If the House’s version is found in accord with the Senate's version, the bill will head to Governor Mike Pence, who has made it clear that he will sign the bill into law.
Supporters of the law attest that the law does not allow discrimination of same-sex individuals, but rather, honors the rights of business owners who for example, may not in good conscious provide wedding services to same-sex couples.
Supporters of the law say it will keep government entities from forcing business owners - such as bakeries and florists who don't want to provide services to gay couples - from acting in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Gay marriage became legal in Indiana last year following an appellate court ruling.
Supporter Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, tweeted after its passage in the House on Monday that the bill was a "good, tested, protective shield for all faiths."
While opponents claim that SB 101 would allow for discrimination against same-sex couples, what SB 101 actually achieves is protecting individuals from suffering discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Specifically, SB 101 prevents state and local governments from "substantially burdening" citizens from being able to exercise their freedom of religion, unless the government can prove that it has compelling interest and is doing so in the least restrictive means.
Supporters of the bill explain that the measure protects people, organizations, and business owners from government intrusion.
"It's important that we allow our citizens to hold religious beliefs, maybe even those we might be appalled by, and to be able to express those," said Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Inglefield.
What is more, opponents should be aware that SB 101 is based off of a 22-year-old federal law, dubbed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, the same act that was influential in the Hobby Lobby decision.
While this bill awaits full adoption in Indiana, nineteen other states have already adopted similar religious freedom bills, and there are several others that are considering legislation.
While the opposition will not respectfully admit defeat, bravo to the state of Indiana for recognizing the importance of religious freedom and the true right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs, both in their private and public lives. Well done, Indiana. Our founding fathers would be proud.