To protect these humble citizens from having to bake gay wedding cakes and marry the homos and such, state legislators across the country are enacting “religious freedom” bills, which basically say as long as you claim to have Sincerely Held Beliefs™, you can discriminate against just about anybody. We’ll let the godless heathens at The Daily Beast explain:
Say it after me: RFRA. Riff-rah. It stands for “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The federal RFRA was passed in 1993, nearly unanimously, with liberals and conservatives uniting in response to a Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith, which upheld anti-drug laws being used against Native Americans ingesting peyote. Outraged by this intrusion on a minority religious practice, RFRA provided that the government can only “substantially burden” the exercise of religion if it has a “compelling state interest.”
That language isn’t just legalese; it decided Hobby Lobby. But thanks to a 1997 Supreme Court decision, it only applies to the federal government, not the states.
At the same time, right-wing activists have redefined “religious liberty” from a shield for minorities (like Native Americans) into a sword for majorities (like Christians who want to discriminate against gays or women). And so, since 1997, they have been busily passing RFRAs in 20 states (and counting), and strengthening the ones that already exist—applying them to businesses, for example, or creatively redefining “substantial burden” as any burden, no matter how insubstantial.
Got that? If you have a Sincerely Held Belief™ that allowing a Known Homosexual to move into the apartment you own will condemn you to an eternity in perdition — which makes your god a dick, by the way — that Sincerely Held Belief™ sincerely exempts you from whatever anti-discrimination laws your local government has passed. Everyone wins! (Except the Known Homosexual, who is now homeless, as Jeebus intended.)
You will be shocked to learn that basically every Republican-controlled legislature in the country is toying with one of these: in Utah, Indiana, Oklahoma (which is trying to forbid marriage licenses, because gay), and Georgia (we will come back to this one in a moment, because it is special), these bills are very much alive and kicking. In the godless bastions of Texas, West Virginia, South Dakota and Colorado, such bills have stalled in the legislature, which of course means those states’ Christianists will continue to be oppressed by the homos, who really are here to recruit you.
There is also an effort among Democrats in Congress to overhaul the federal religious freedom law to maybe clear up that no, it doesn’t allow for-profit corporations to block their employees from slut pills. But these are Democrats in Congress, so this will not happen. Sorry, ladies.
On February 13, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held an oversight hearing on the federal RFRA, as well as on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Three of the four invited witnesses supported the outcome in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which held that the closely-held corporations can use RFRA to deny their employees insurance coverage for contraception. Professor Nelson Tebbe from Brooklyn Law School, however, testified that after Hobby Lobby “RFRA itself is in need of a restoration.” He expressed concerns that the Supreme Court decision extended RFRA protections to for-profit corporations and that it allowed RFRA to be applied in a way that imposed “meaningful costs on identifiable third parties.”
We will conclude with an excursion into Georgia, where we never really want to go but it so happens that this state is in between Yr Florida Correspondent and Civilization, and so go through it we must, though we keep the doors locked and windows rolled up, because that place is fucking nuts.
Georgia is poised to pass the nation’s harshest “religious freedom” law, allowing discrimination, judicial obstruction, and even domestic violence. […] Restaurants could refuse to serve gay or interracial couples, city clerks could refuse to marry interfaith couples, hotels could keep out Jews, housing developments could keep out black people (Genesis 9:18-27), pharmacies could refuse to dispense birth control, banquet halls could turn away gay weddings, schools could specifically allow anti-gay bullying, and employers could fire anyone for any “religious” reason.
You caught that domestic violence bit, right? Here’s how it works: There are apparently Jesus-y couples who believe that the man, as head of household, is perfectly within his rights to corporally discipline his wife when she “misbehaves.” And as long as the man claims a Sincerely Held Belief™, this is a perfectly acceptable practice. Oh, and some of the state’s prosecutors have said that this bill would also impede child abuse investigations, because if it’s your Sincerely Held Belief™ that you should not spare the rod, who is the government to argue, even if the rod sends your child to the hospital?
The bill is still alive, for now. And the state’s big corporations — including Coca-Cola, which really wants you to think it’s gay-friendly — are not doing much of anything to stop it. Sigh.