Last week, while we should have been focusing our attention on the passion of Christ and His resurrection, our nation was embroiled in a massive debate over the very nature of religious freedom. Indiana has been ground zero for a gigantic leftist hysterical outburst over the idea that a person of faith should have their day in court if they object to a law they believe violates their beliefs. Much has been written about how the media and the left has distorted what Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) do, but unfortunately, many of your friends, neighbors, and fellow church-goers may believe the lies. So I wanted to provide you with just a few facts about RFRAs that I hope will help you clarify the misinformation.
You may know by now that Congress passed a RFRA nearly unanimously that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Later, states began adopting their own versions of RFRA (the history of the need for RFRAs can be found here).
Virginia has a RFRA, passed in 2007 while current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine was Governor. Governor Kaine did not veto the bill, but made some amendments to the law, which were adopted. RFRA simply says that if someone believes that a law infringes on their religious beliefs, they have their day in court to make that claim. If the government can prove that it has a “compelling interest” to have the law apply regardless of one’s faith, and there isn’t a “less restrictive” way to apply the law, then the person loses and must abide by the law.
That’s it. That’s all it does.
RFRA has never been used as a “license to discriminate” because it can’t. In fact, RFRA exists to ensure that the government can’t discriminate against people of faith.
The most recent, well-known example of the use of RFRA is the “Hobby Lobby” case, where the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year said that the requirement found in so-called “Obamacare” that businesses provide contraception regardless of their beliefs was unconstitutional. In that case the Court applied the federal RFRA, and concluded that while the government may have a compelling interest in forcing businesses to subsidize the sex lives of their employees, there were “less restrictive” ways to do so than to force a business to violate its beliefs. Ironically, liberals passionately argued in that case that a business can’t have “values,” but today are trumpeting the businesses that hold the anti-religious, progressive “values” they want to impose on the rest of us.
The one positive from this debate in Virginia is that, in his haste to appear “inclusive” by inviting businesses in Indiana to relocate to Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe admitted that Virginia is an “open and inclusive state,” thereby conceding that we don’t need any new laws that would elevate sexual orientation/gender identity to a protected class.
If you want to learn more about RFRAs, I suggest the following articles: