Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee, Reject Senate Bill 568 for What It Is; a License to Discriminate

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February 9, 2015
Lambda Legal Law and Policy Project National Director Jennifer C. Pizer

Today, the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill designed to allow private businesses, individuals and organizations to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds.

This bill attempts to strip away existing, essential protections for Indiana workers, families and others. It would upset the balance between religious freedom and freedom from imposition of others’ religious beliefs, creating many potential areas of dispute among all Hoosiers. SB568 extends religious exercise rights to for-profit companies of all sizes -- no matter what goods they make or services they sell, they're treated much like churches.

Furthermore, it is designed to allow religious rights to dominate in disputes between private parties -- between neighbors, employee and employer, and landlord and tenant. If passed, this bill would invite discrimination and unfair preferences based on others’ religious beliefs in vital areas of life that should remain protected under law.

Let’s be clear, this Indiana bill opens up a Pandora’s Box of religiously-motivated discrimination.  It mimics misguided bills being debated in state legislatures across the country and past efforts in Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and elsewhere that fortunately were dropped or stopped before becoming law. And while these bills’ intention to facilitate discrimination against gay and transgender people is overt and unapologetic, they also instigate a broad range of other misconduct and harms, including imposing costs and other competitive burdens on the enterprises that do not demand special religious rights.

In particular, as Arizona lawmakers realized after hastily approving a similar bill last year, vastly expanding religious rights in business settings would interfere with employers’ ability to manage employees who misbehave in the name of religion while badly tarnishing the state’s reputation.  It was at the alarmed urging of Arizona’s business leaders that then-Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s similar bill. In the end, Arizona leaders across the political spectrum agreed:  Freedom of religion does not give anyone the right to discriminate against others.

Read the press release.