Posted on March 28, 2015
A letter submitted by Indiana State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville)
At the Statehouse, often times we have passionate conversations and intense debates. We also receive input from countless Hoosiers about the legislation being discussed, which is great –as our citizen Legislature needs as much input as possible. However, in order for this institution to function, it is important that people receive accurate information on which to base their opinions on.
Recently, Senate Enrolled Act 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. Almost immediately after this bill was first introduced, misinformation clouded both sides of this issue, suffocating the truth. This distortion of facts works to divide rather than unite us, and regrettably, can even prevent good public policy from passing. That is why, I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the confusion surrounding this legislation and provide some clarity on what this law will do and alternatively, what it will not do. But first, it is important to know a little background about RFRA.
In 1993, Congress almost unanimously passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which former President Bill Clinton signed into law. However, four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that this statute did not apply to the states. In response to this decision, many states, including Indiana’s neighbors, began passing laws similar to the federal statute. Today, there are 30 states that have adopted RFRA into law; Indiana being the 31st.
Along with the history of each law, like any issue, the best way to find the most accurate information is by going directly to the source. The same is true with legislation. I encourage anyone passionate about this issue to read the bill for yourself and conduct your own research, objectively. Unfortunately, one of the chief myths that I continue to hear is that this law allows or creates a license to discriminate. This is absolutely false. No one gets to discriminate under this law.
This law was intended to accomplish one thing: to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. It provides the courts with clarity to better resolve any matters that come forth regarding religious freedom, which our country was founded on and is one of the reasons why America is so great. As someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, I have a responsibility and it is my duty to protect those fundamental rights if they become threatened.
We have seen several examples where the government has attempted to infringe upon the religious rights of Americans, which is why this law is necessary. For instance, a group of churches in Philadelphia were facing a lawsuit from the city for trying to feed the homeless. Having the protection of RFRA, the courts ruled that the city could not bar this outreach ministry from helping those in need. It is also important to note that in the 22 years since these laws were first enacted; discrimination has never been legitimized by the courts.
In this great state and nation, we all want the same thing: the opportunity to be free from discrimination while at the same time having the opportunity to exercise our constitutional rights, which is what this law aims to achieve. While I do not expect everyone to agree on this issue, I do hope that those engaging in this discussion are using the facts and going directly to the source for information, rather than believing half-truths.