Why The Ongoing RFRA Battle Is About Far More Than Wedding Cakes

Now that both Indiana and Arkansas have enacted their Religious Freedom Restorations Acts, with each altered in response to an unprecedented and swift-moving opposition, it’s worth taking a look at what the landscape looks like going forward.

First, laws designed to provide a defense to businesses who refuse to serve LGBT couples, or who refuse to cater or photograph same-sex weddings, are not popular. One poll, from the Public Religion Research Institute, found that just 16% of respondents supported such laws. Jeb Bush, who had initially defended Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the RFRA that caused the vociferous backlash (albeit with little apparent understanding of how RFRAs function in the legal system), later said he would have preferred a “consensus-oriented” approach to a law that would not allow discrimination against LGBT people.

bug_00The Indiana fix–adding language that the law couldn’t be used to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation–addressed the major issue that had generated the backlash. But its still legal under Indiana law to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, even though some municipalities in the state bar it. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said in a statement, “we still don’t believe these nondiscrimination provisions go far enough.”

But there are legitimate concerns beyond how these new RFRAs could be used to treat LGBT people. As the American Civil Liberties Union has said, while the new provision in the Indiana RFRA is a “major improvement, ” the law as now enacted “still poses a risk that it can be used to deny rights to others, including in education, access to health care, and other aspects of people’s lives.” Although the new law’s religious freedom claims and defenses are no longer available to for-profit entities, they still are available to non-profit entities who can invoke its provisions to raise religious objections to providing service.

While Indiana lawmakers supporting the RFRA were, as documented in this well-reported piece in the Indianapolis Star, motivated to provide legal protections to businesses that refuse to provide services to same-sex couples or for same-sex weddings, other comments by lawmakers show their intent was broader. Republican Rep. Bruce Borders suggested anesthesiologists who oppose abortion should not have to anesthetize women undergoing the procedure. The Indianapolis Star reported that “Borders said he believes the Bible’s command to ‘do all things as unto the Lord’ means religious believers need to be protected not just in church, but in their workplaces as well.” If that workplace is a religious non-profit, like a hospital or university, the new language appears to give those entities the right to assert a religious exemption if they object to the services required for a particular patient or person.

In Arkansas, by contrast, the law was changed to ensure that it could only be invoked in cases in which the government is a party, just as in the federal version.

Proponents of these new RFRAs have continually argued that the federal RFRA, enacted in 1993, had widespread and bipartisan support. They frequently ask why those who supported RFRA’s passage in 1993 now protest the new RFRAs go too far.

The answer lies in how the courts have interpreted the federal RFRA. At the time, it looked like a needed fix to protect individuals who, for example, were barred from receiving employment compensation after being fired for smoking peyote, an essential part of a Native American ritual. In 20 years, though, it has been expanded, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, to confer rights on closely-held corporations seeking to deny their female employees the benefit of no-cost insurance coverage for birth control.

The debate on these laws is far from over. While the focus over the past week has been on their impact on LGBT people, Supreme Court precedent points to a wider reach. The innovation, if you will, of Hobby Lobby was not just allowing a closely-held corporation to invoke religious freedom rights. It was how the Court assessed, in favor of the corporation, the impact of religious freedom claims on third parties generally.


  • imjessietr@yahoo.com' Kelly says:

    I think any doctor against abortion for religious reasons should have to quote scripture agreeing with him or her. That should shut them up.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    The typical anti-choicer thinks that he or she has scriptural authority because of one verse in Jeremiah … despite that verse specifically applying *only* to Jeremiah. And they get really pissed off when you point to Numbers 5:11-31, in which a woman is forced to consume an abortifacient as a test of marital fidelity.

    The typical anti-choice bible thumper doesn’t know his or her scriptures very well at all, in other words.

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    I would worry about this from the 10,000 foot view, just because of all the other crap in scripture.

  • namaste.chi@aol.com' Abide says:

    It should be obvious to anyone, at this point, that the religious right always has a hidden agenda in everything it does and it’s politically driven. This is not valid religion – it is politics masquerading as religion.

  • namaste.chi@aol.com' Abide says:

    the old testament should be understood very loosely today because the Bible, as a whole, includes a progression in humanity’s understanding of God and the old testament was written at an early stage. Not only that, but Christ isn’t a filter for it – notice how he quoted the old testament, leaving out the punitive and retributive parts.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    I wholeheartedly concur with you … but that doesn’t stop the Who Would Jesus Hate crowd.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    That cake that looks like a stack of cannonballs looks good. Is it chocolate?

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    when do we get the Christians who refuse to recognize divorced heterosexuals who remarry? That fact that we don’t see any is clear evidence that this is only about white prejudice. Jesus said the one who marries after divorce commits adultery (Newt Gingrich!) and he did not condemn gay people. So which Bible are these white bigot GOP people using?

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    I always find it amazing that God was unable or unwilling to communicate effectively at any point in time.

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:


  • akmulligan@gmail.com' Anne Mulligan says:

    Forget Newt Gingrich – Think about Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of the right.

  • steveex57@yahoo.com' MsStevil . says:

    You mean like how the Levitical law was meant only for the Levite priests but they want to use them to point out their opinion against gays? Most people that call themselves Christians have never actually read the bible as a book. They read passages and try to fit them into their own meanings without any understanding of the entire story or the history of the times. Not to mention the many of mistranslations over the centuries.

  • steveex57@yahoo.com' MsStevil . says:

    prayer and mediation along with having an open mind to actually listen to God’s voice is the only true communication. If you actually read the bible for it’s historical value and ask God to explain he will in ways you never thought possible.

  • steveex57@yahoo.com' MsStevil . says:

    Jesus never hated anyone nor did he ever turn anyone away so I can’t imagine where these so called Christians of today get any of their ideas against anyone.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    so I can’t imagine where these so called Christians of today get any of their ideas against anyone.

    That’s easy; they’ve created a god in their own image, so that s/he will conveniently hate all the same people they do.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Exactly. And if you want to see them really flip out, start pointing out the mistranslations in their beloved KJV (e.g., toevah does not mean “abomination”). They don’t know what their scriptures *actually* say and, despite their screeching that they need to be “taken in context,” do not understand the context of the culture and time in which the materials were written.

  • apri89@comcast.net' Christina Woodruff says:

    Wasn’t the ‘suffer not a witch to live’ also mistranslated?

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    What if I’ve done this and still have not heard God’s voice? I have three options:
    – I’m not doing it right
    – God doesn’t care to explain anything to me
    – God does not exist.

    I guess option one is possible – but there is conflicting information on the “right” way to communicate with God. The second one is God’s fault. And the third should probably be the default position until the first two are clarified.

  • steveex57@yahoo.com' MsStevil . says:

    I would not presume to say that you are doing it wrong, but God does not speak in what we would understand as normal conversation. His answers come in His own time. Not like us speaking to one another and the conversation flows all at once. Sometimes it takes days or weeks maybe even months or years to get an answer. Sometimes I wake up and realize that He did answer and I just wasn’t listening. Like I said it’s so unlike anything that humans would call normal. But He does answer and most of the time it is nothing at all like I thought but totally better than I could have imagined. Patience is also a big key to understanding what God has to tell you but also never ever give up. God it there waiting to hear from you.

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    How do you know any of this actually maps to reality? I could justify almost any version of “sprituality” with what you have said in the comment. “Sun eating comes in its own time, the hunger you experience will be different than a normal hunger, you need to trust Vishnu…”.

    If God has such an important message for me, it knows where to find me. I’m not wasting my life sitting around waiting for a voice from under the bed to finally reveal itself.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Yes. The actual word is *poisoner.*

    King James was a number of things … and one of them was a notorious paranoid. He absolutely believed witchcraft was real, and directed that translation specifically.

    He also directed the translation of “toevah” (which means “ritually impure”) to “abomination.”

    Oh … and he was also a rather notorious closet case.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    It’s a croquembouche; they’re made from choux pastry (which can be flavored). https://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/croquembouche-recipe-crockenbush/

  • dzilla64@frontier.com' Dave Hallahan says:

    Nicely done.

  • yetivelorry@yahoo.com' Cpt_Justice says:

    I’m sure that Peggy Porschen isn’t discriminatory, but you might want to credit her for the picture that was taken and altered, above: http://www.peggyporschen.com/media/pdf/Patisserie-Cake-Collection.pdf

  • judithmax@comcast.net' Judith Maxfield says:

    Back to the doctors who may refuse a procedure: My nice, a nominal Catholic in nurse’s training, and while there was still time, chose to not have her speciality in assisting births because she did not want to assist in abortions. She moved over to post-op for critical care babies and loves it. She’s in charge of babies close to death and highly respected by her peers.
    My point is, she did the right thing for herself without making a “religious” fuss after the fact. I may disagree with the politics, but she knew herself well. It may not have been a religious decision. An opposite story is from an prison chaplain who was disgusted that inmates facing serious medical care were subjected to other evangelical chaplains or authorities attempting to convert them before care was given. So much for brotherly love. to me, I always rejected that hateful God. My God is not that and I am a Christian who bothered learn what I was getting I for with the church I picked and was ready for living the mystery rather than “believe” only tex and usually some male -usually with a swelled head – talking at me.

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