Apple CEO Tim Cook went to the pages of the Washington Post yesterday and piled onto the rapidly growing hysteria related to the Indiana religious freedom law.
Cook claims that the religious freedom laws, signed federally by President Clinton and then copied by 20 more States are “very dangerous.”
Cook says: “A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.”
Cook is contributing the general hysteria and, according to Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence and other supporters of the law, misunderstanding.
As law professor Matthew Franck explained on Breitbart News Sunday last night, the Indiana law, just like all the others passed in the states, protects individuals from government encroachment. The most famous example of the invocation of religious freedom laws over against state encroachment is the company Hobby Lobby defending itself from Obamacare and the requirement to provide abortion drugs to employees. The Supreme Court agreed this was an infringement on religious freedom.
Would the religious freedom laws empower everyday citizens to broadly “discriminate” and withhold “services” to LGBTs? Cook implies the withholding of services could be widespread and indiscriminate. He implies that a deli could deny a pastrami sandwich to a gay man based on a religious claim, or that a tax accountant, or a hairdresser, or garbage collectors deny services. In fact, the Indiana law does not specifically mention sexual orientation. None of the state laws do.
Could a deli owner try to invoke the Indiana law to deny pastrami? Sure. But it is not even remotely possible he would win, because he would have to show a “sincerely held religious belief” that would prevent him from serving a sandwich to a gay guy. No court would buy such a claim and in all the 20+ years these laws have been on the books, no such claims have been made.
But, the state laws can deal with the very narrow question of whether vendors can be forced by the state to participate in religious ceremonies that violate their own religious consciences.
A florist in Washington state had a longstanding and very good relationship with a gay couple. The florist served them for years and considered them friends. One day the gay couple asked the florist to provide the flowers to their wedding. The florist said she could not because a wedding is a religious ceremony and she could not participate in a religious ceremony that violated her own religious beliefs. Washington state took action against the florist and are in the process of running her out of business. Forget the fact there are likely hundreds of other florists who would have loved to handle the business.
Just because these laws exist now in twenty states does not mean that any religious claim will be granted. The person must show the court a “sincerely held religious belief” and that the government is imposing a “substantial burden” on that belief in imposing a certain law. The state gets to impose upon the believer’s conscience if the state can show a “compelling interest” and that the state is imposing that interest in the “least burdensome” way. It is a balancing test that allows a citizen to fight back against the state.
Should a Jewish deli be forced by the government to serve pork? Should a halal butcher be forced by the government to butcher hogs? Should Jews be forbidden by the government from performing circumcisions, something already happening in some parts of the world? Common sense says no and so do laws protecting religious freedom. There are plenty of other delis that serve pork and plenty of others butchers who cut up hogs.
There are not now any specific protections for gays in the state of Indiana or in most states. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected categories of non-discrimination. Has that meant Indiana has been the site of widespread discrimination against LGBTs? Do lunch counters turn gays away? Are there banks that have refused their business? Has there been open season on gays in Indiana because they are not a protected class? No, and this new law will not usher in a new campaign against them where none has existed before.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who recently came out as same-sex attracted, says nondiscrimination is a part of America’s founding. But so is religious freedom. The U.S. has a long history of protecting the consciences of religious believers. Think of Quakers and combat.
What Indiana is undergoing now is a kind of intolerance that is rapidly increasing in recent years against those who oppose same-sex marriage.Brendan Eich was chased out of his CEO job at Mozilla Firefox for supporting traditional marriage.The US Navy is in the process kicking a 19-year veteran Chaplain out of the military for religious counseling that a gay officer found objectionable.
Rather than open season on gays, as one headline writer said about the Indiana law, there is a shrinking public space for holding a view on marriage that was held by President Obama and Hillary Clinton only a few years ago. Christians are merely asking for protection in holding and practicing those same beliefs. Tim Cook says no.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse