Understanding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Controversy

Mike Pence - Religious Freedom Restoration ActPhoto of Mike Pence,

After a national uproar over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the state’s Governor Mike Pence is attempting to clear up his view on the Senate Bill. In a press conference, Pence said, “If this law had been about discrimination, I would have vetoed it.”

Why is this act causing so much controversy? Taking effect on July 1st, 2015, the Senate Bill 101 prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. It prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

Essentially, and according to Pence, the act is meant to protect free exercise of religion. Say someone is fired from their job and they believe their termination was due to their sexual orientation, race, etc.; the employee would not be able to take action against the company. 

Many organizations have spoken out against the act. Mark Emmert, NCAA President said in a statement, “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

On Monday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council on Monday called on the Indiana General Assembly to either repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state law. 




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