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April 2, 2015
Column #1,753
Religious Liberty Losing to Gay Rights
By Mike McManus

Thanks to brilliant tactics by gay activists, huge doses of corporate hypocrisy, tongue-tied politicians, and the silence of religious leaders – religious liberty lost big battles in Indiana and Arkansas this week.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a column in The Washington Post deploring a “dangerous happening” of a “wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states” that would “allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.”

For example, he said Indiana and Arkansas passed laws that would allow individuals to “cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer.” Incorrect. First, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Cook was speaking about was passed by 19 states many years ago. Second, none have been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws.

However, his biggest hypocrisy is that Apple does business in scores of Arab and African countries where a homosexual is more likely to get stoned than protected. “When was the last time Cook objected to a single act of discrimination in any of these countries? Never. He hasn’t. He doesn’t,” asserted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, quoting “RedState.”

The wave that mattered in Indiana was a flood of business objections to the RFRA bill. Angie’s List cited it as a reason to cancel plans to expand facilities in Indianapolis. Eli Lilly, a huge employer in Indiana, objected to the law. Days before the N.C.A.A. basketball finals are to be held in Indianapolis, Mark Edwards, its president, said the new law “strikes at the core values of what higher education in America is all about.” He threatened to hold the playoffs elsewhere if lawmakers did not change it.

The Indianapolis Star’s entire front page featured three words: “FIX THIS NOW.”

It stated that “much is at stake. Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome.” Efforts to “retool our economy” and attract “thriving businesses” is “at risk because of a new law.” The paper asked Gov. Mike Pence and the legislature “to enact a law to prohibit discrimination…on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. These protections and RFRA can co-exist.”

However, there’s another side to this story. Barronelle Stutzman was fined $1,000 last week for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. Her attorney, Kristen Waggoner of the Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, said “Barronelle must pay a penalty for her faith and surrender her freedom and conscience.”

Melissa Klein owns Sweet Cakes by Melissa. After refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple citing her religious beliefs, she was sued by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. She lost the case and now must pay $150,000 in state fines! The fine was so huge she closed her store and now operates on the web and from her home.

There have been many similar cases. Yet do you remember any Catholic or Methodist bishop or prominent Baptist pastor who denounced this extinguishing of religious freedom? I cannot.

Gov. Pence has been so pummeled by critics that he announced Tuesday that his plans to amend the law. His courage lasted a week.

One person who criticized Pence for backtracking and setting a bad example was Micah Clark, President of the American Family Association of Indiana: “We’re concerned that we could lose our religious liberties and that those religious liberties could be traded off out of concern for losing some tax revenues from sports events and business. Religious liberty is not something up for sale.”

Fox News reporter Todd Starnes sighed, Gov. Pence is “sending back this law and he’s telling them to fix it – but he told us there’s nothing to fix. So if I’m reading this correctly, we are about to get a religious liberty law in Indiana that does not protect religious liberty.”

A similar Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in Arkansas by lopsided margins. Then it was criticized by the mayor of Little Rock, the president of Walmart, the largest employer in the state, by the Chamber of Commerce and by the governor’s son.

So Gov. Hutchinson on Wednesday sheepishly called on state lawmakers to either recall or amend the bill. To ensure that the state is “a place of tolerance,” he asked that the bill be amended to balance the “competing constitutional obligations.”

My question is why do gays and lesbians, who are only 1.7 percent of the population, get all of the tolerance while Christians aren’t tolerated?

The leaders of Christian denominations have disappeared rather than lead.

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