Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence signed a law this week for “Religious Freedom Restoration”. On the surface, this is presumably to protect people’s religious expression. Of course, there are no instances to be cited where religious expression has been threatened in this country. There are plenty of illustrations of where people are legally being allowed to do things of which particular groups of Christians disapprove.
Same gender marriage, for example.
Indiana’s ban on same gender marriage was overturned by courts in 2014, which means that ‘bible believing christians’ (I’m using lower case letters and quote marks very intentionally here) who operate businesses will be forced to earn money when gay and lesbian customers will want to pay for wedding cakes or flowers.
But it isn’t about gay marriage, proponents of these “religious freedom” laws say.
When was the last time you heard florists or cake bakers complain about making money for weddings of previously divorced people? When was the last time you heard these same conservative Christians defending the religious freedom of Muslims?
As I said.
These laws, in place in 20 states to varying degrees, and under discussion in many others, are nothing more than ‘conservative christian freedom to discriminate against gay people‘ bills.
If churches don’t want to have same gender weddings in their sanctuaries–that would be religious freedom. If people don’t want to attend same gender weddings as guests–welcome to America, land of the free. But if you operate a business in the public sphere, you don’t get a pass to discriminate against people.
A number of people have since announced their plans to boycott the state of Indiana. Charles Barkley has asked the NCAA to pull the Final Four Men’s basketball games from Indianapolis.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said this:
Angie’s List canceled plans to expand their headquarters in Indiana. A number of companies have said they will not send their employees to Indiana for work and are canceling any projects there.
If George Takei tells us to Boycott Indiana, who am I to question him?
Boycotting this one state, however, seems problematic. 21 states have similar laws on the books. Are we boycotting all of them? I live in a state that has consistently refused to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the human rights codes. Do I have to move?
The denomination I serve recently achieved marriage equality. Christians who are gay and lesbian can now serve the PCUSA in all ordained offices and can be married in congregations that accept same gender marriage (that’s what religious freedom looks like). I am very proud to be Presbyterian at this moment in history.
But there were a number of years before we received ordination and marriage equality where I was conflicted. I was ordained to serve a church that would accept my gifts because I happened to marry a man but would not accept the gifts of my talented and faithful gay and lesbian friends. I love my husband, but he is not my best gift for ministry.
A number of people left the denomination for greener, more equal pastures. Should I have left as well? Would boycotting the church I love have been the more faithful response?
If all of the progressives had left the PCUSA after the General Assembly in 1996 that ushered in more restrictive language in our constitutional documents, who would have been left to work for change? Who would have been there to pastor and nurture the faith of gay and lesbian Presbyterians? I’m glad I didn’t leave. I’m glad I stayed and joined with others who have been working for change for so long.
Boycotting is certainly one way to respond to Indiana’s horrible new law.
How else, though, could we respond? What other witness could we provide? How can we stand with gay and lesbian Hoosiers as they now face state sanctioned discrimination? Certainly we can put our creativity to use in other ways to overturn this law without abandoning people in Indiana (and other states with such laws).
Here’s a good start. Josh Driver started a website to keep a registry of companies who will not discriminate against people. The We Serve Everyone Project has taken off since this bill was signed, signing up organizations across the country who want to be on the side of equality and inclusion. See their website here.
If keeping your money out of Indiana is the best way you can protest legislation like this, then keep at it. I just hope we can find other ways to effect change without having to leave every state that passes bad laws or denomination that has exclusionary practices.