In the wake of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the media have been stacking myth upon myth in order to drive the narrative that right-wingers desperately want to harm gays and lesbians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatives merely want to protect a basic notion of freedom from the tyranny of the left: the notion that individual rights, even those exercised in ways we would not always like, are still rights. Those rights extend to your conduct of your own business, given that there are no externalities – and refusal to engage in a voluntary transaction does not amount to an externality. That is the essence of liberty.
Here are the top myths pushed by the media left in the wake of the RFRA:
RFRA Discriminates Against Gays. No, the RFRA does not. The RFRA is explicitly designed to protect practice of any religion. It says that “a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” That can be overridden if the government’s action “is in furtherance of a compelling government interest” and is also “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.” If government does act against someone in violation of their religious principles, that person or entity can assert that violation “as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.” So, if you are a Muslim, and you want to wear a beard while a police officer, the RFRA protects you. If you are a Jehovah’s Witness and you don’t want to get a blood transfusion in violation of law, the RFRA protects you.
The reason many on the left believe the RFRA discriminates against homosexuals is because homosexuals have sued private religious businessowners for refusing to service same-sex weddings. The RFRA protects such religious businessowners from antidiscrimination laws – although Indiana has no such antidiscrimination laws with regard to sexual orientation anyway. So Indiana’s law has not even changed one iota with regard to private businessowners’ treatment of homosexuals, let alone gay marriage (refusing to service a same-sex wedding is not the same as refusing to serve someone gay, by the way).
RFRA Is a Republican Plot. No, it is not. The original federal RFRA was passed in 1993, signed by Bill Clinton, and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill passed the United States House of Representatives unanimously, and the Senate 97-3. It was co-sponsored by probable incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). In 1998, then-State Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) voted for a similar law. It passed unanimously 56-0.
This Is Like Jim Crow. No, it is not. Jim Crow was a mandatory set of regulations springing from the government – the same government the left now wants to use to discriminate against religious people for failing their tolerance test. Alabama’s Jim Crow law explicitly prevented private businessowners from serving blacks at its lunch counters:
It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment.
The same homosexual advocates and allies who want to use the government as a club to beat those who engage in certain voluntary conduct were surely against that tactic when the government was discriminating against homosexual conduct.
This Will Allow Discrimination Against Blacks, Too. No, it won’t. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents such discrimination. The supremacy clause means the Civil Rights Act trumps state law. It is worth noting that the Constitution itself should not permit the federal government to intervene with regard to private businesses involved in making judgments about whether to engage in certain voluntary transactions, no matter the excuse for that refusal. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) used to rightly oppose that aspect of the Civil Rights Act, but has since backed away from that libertarian position.
In a free society, we understand that societal disapproval of activity does not, on its own, justify violation of individual rights. But not the left, which is happy to bring a gun to the party, just so long as it is the party wielding the gun.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.