The greatly anticipated “fix” to the Indiana religious freedom law has been released by the Indiana legislative committee, and it is far worse than conservatives feared.
According to law professor Mark Rienzi, the new fix will allow the state to prosecute Christians criminally for denying gay weddings their professional affirmation.
Rienzi, of the Becket Fund and Catholic University School of Law and who was lead attorney in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that upheld a claim under the federal religious freedom law, said this would “criminalize religious objectors.”
The “fix” maintains the religious liberty law in Indiana but says Christian business cannot use the law in declining to endorse a same-sex wedding. Christian business owners — florists, bakers, caterers and others — will now be forced to provide service for religious ceremonies that go against their “deeply held religious beliefs.” But the fix also says the law cannot establish a defense against not just civil actions but also “criminal prosecution.”
The “fix” carves our exemptions but only for churches, minsters, and overtly religious organizations — not for Christians who run for-profit businesses.
Social conservatives were quick to comment.
Marriage expert Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation said, “…the proposed fix amounts to nothing less than a wholesale repeal of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act with respect to those who need religious liberty protections the most.”
The Family Research Council issued a statement: “The new proposal guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and empowers the government to impose punishing fines on people for following their religious beliefs about marriage.” FRC president Tony Perkins said, “Religious freedom should not be held hostage to Big Business.” Much of the opposition to the Indian law came from major corporations who threatened economic retaliation for enacting the law.
Activist Linda Harvey pointed a finger at LGBT activists. “This ‘fix’ is everything gay activists could want.”
The “fix” must pass both legislative houses in Indiana and be signed by Governor Mike Pence, who has been suspected of entertaining presidential ambitions in 2016. At least one social conservative leader said yesterday this ends any hope he may have for 2016 and beyond.