How to talk about the Indiana law with your liberal friends

Daily Signal 3 April 2015
Editor’s note: Amid the discussion about the religious liberty laws in Indiana and Arkansas this week, there’s been a lot of misinformation—and a lot of thoughtful concerns about what religious freedom laws actually allow and what they ban. We talked to Heritage Foundation’s William E. Simon Fellow Dr. Ryan T. Anderson to get the facts—and to find out whether, as your liberal relatives will likely argue as the political discussions happen this holiday, the original Indiana religious freedom law would have allowed discrimination.

What’s religious liberty all about?
Religious liberty is about protecting people’s fundamental natural rights. People have rights—including the right to pursue religious truth and, within the limits of justice and the common good, to act on their judgments of what truth demands. People have these rights as individuals and in the communities they form: their churches, their schools, their charities and their businesses.

Religious Freedom Restoration Acts protect this fundamental right. They prohibit the government from placing substantial burdens on religious exercise unless the government can show a compelling interest in burdening religious liberty and do so through the least restrictive means.

One of the hallmarks of religious liberty protections is that they protect people of all faiths, even if their beliefs seem unfounded, flawed, implausible or downright silly. Recognition of a right to religious freedom does not, however, depend on religious skepticism or relativism. Rather, it rests on the intelligible value of the religious quest—the activities of seeking to understand the truth about ultimate questions and then conforming one’s life accordingly, with authenticity and integrity.

What happened with Indiana’s religious liberty law and the “fix”?
The law needed no fix.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Indiana passed, and that Gov. Mike Pence signed into law, was a good piece of policy, and there really was no need for a fix.

The fix that they came up with at the last minute was rushed to passage, and it actually creates more problems than it solves. It now says that sexual liberty should always trump religious liberty, and that’s not right.

We should have a balancing test where religious liberty and sexual liberty can coexist, and that’s what the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does. But the fix that they rushed to come up with says that sexual orientation and gender identity laws will always trump the religious liberty law. That’s wrong.

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