It has been a bad year for employees and even customers with businesses. You would think that with all the information out there today that people would be smarter about the decisions they make and the consequences those decisions have on other people but apparently not. It is one thing to have the internet and use it correctly but it is a completely different thing when you use it only to support your given ways and not improve yourself. Indiana’s legislating body showed the US just that when Gov. Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101 into law last Thursday (march 26, 2015).
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 1993
The original basis from which this all started was signed into federal law by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. The idea behind this act is that states will not burden someone’s right to exercise their freedom of religious belief or expression. The act did not apply toward states but just at the federal level so states stepped in and created their own provisions called, State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. There are currently 21 states that have their own RFRAs in order to match their state’s own interests and laws, Texas is one of the 21 stats to have their own version.
The bill does exemptions though one of which two conditions, which are both held under strict scrutiny, have to be met at the same time in order for it to apply. First, the burden must be necessary if it furthers the government’s valid and compelling interest, which is an act that is more than just routine but necessary. Second, the action of the government must be done in the least restrictive way possible. These conditions apply the federal act as well as at the state level.
Controversy with Indiana’s new law
Gov. Mike Pence has stated that, “this bill is not about discrimination and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” The challenge to that is the bill does allow businesses to discriminate if the business owner does not follow or approve of someone else’s lifestyle as this one restaurant owner has proudly declared on national radio, long before the bill even passed. In the article the business owner talks about how his restaurant is his business and he pays the bills so he should have the right to decide who gets to sit and eat his food.
There is another restaurant owner that has gone on public news and declared that if their pizza shop was asked to make pizzas for a gay wedding they would deny them service. Right after the news about this place was made public they had to close down their store because of all the threatening phone calls and hate messages they were getting. Their yelp page also received poor reviews immediately following that. The owners are currently waiting for all this to pass over so they can hopefully reopen again after all the lose business they put on themselves. It is important to point out though that in the interview they made it a point to say that they do not discriminate against anyone but that it is their religious right to believe in what they want.
This is the perfect example of what has started the backlash after signing the bill into law on Thursday. Many companies, organizations, celebrities, and people from all over have voiced their opinions about this controversial law with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, going to Twitter and voicing his outrage at what has taken place and even writing an article entitled, “Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous.”
Many other people have voiced their concerns as well for what Gov. Pence has done.
So why did the governor sign this bill in secret? Well if you take a look at the people surrounding him you will see just who is really behind this bill and where the influence is coming from.
The people in the photo are smiling because it means that businesses, organizations, and any other group can now cry foul anytime they feel their religious freedom is being challenged, or as Mike Pence said, “infringed upon.” This was the very issue that George Stephanopoulos was trying to get at when he had a one-on-one chat with the governor when he came on “This Week” to talk about what has happened. George asked pointblank questions that only required a yes or no answer to which the governor would not answer straight out but instead gave a long drawn out answer. Politicians never like to be candid about their actions and this is just another example of that.
Pence has already made comment that he does not have anything on his agenda that would protect the rights of LGBT individuals from discrimination so it does not look like he is working to help provide equal rights in his state. Gov. Mike Pence made it very clear in his interview with George that signing that bill into law was not a mistake so it goes to show that he has put himself into hot water on purpose. After all the backlash though he will go back this week to refine the wording of the law to make sure it is not so vague. The pro-LGBT Lambda Legal program did make an effort to provide legal clarification on the matter when they put out a statement on the matter.
Many companies and powerhouse organizations are taking aim at what Gov. Mike Pence has done for his state by turning their business away from the state. Many companies have already made public announcements that they would no longer conduct business in Indiana as a result of what has taken place, even with the NBA calling them out on their actions. The hashtag “boycottIndiana” has already taken off with many people all around voicing their opinions and providing pictures that paint a clear path to what will start happening
But here is where things start to get messy, many states that don’t allow discrimination are now canceling any trips to Indiana that are paid for by tax dollars. George Takei has really been vocal on this issue showing what has been taking place.
In another tweet he put out he was sad to see that discrimination and hate go hand-in-hand by this new piece of legislation that would make it legal to kill gays through a process of “bullets to the head” that is being put to the ballot. Unfortunately there is no legal consequence for the issuer at the time of this writing to determine if anything can be done to stop it. The measure though has brought up a few questions now, one being the most asked, why can’t there be a system in place to prevent illegal ideas from being submitted?
Ellen DeGeneres posted many tweets and showed support for those speaking up about what is happening in Indiana.
Angie’s List has already made an announcement that they will not continue with their expansion of a new headquarters in Indiana because they do not agree with laws that allow discrimination to take place.
The real estate company, RedFin, has even taken to their twitter account to voice opposition to the law in Indiana. Real estate brokers know that discrimination is alive and well in their industry and laws like this just encourage that.
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com, made a public announcement on his twitter account saying that he would be canceling all programs that involve any travel to Indiana, which is a great move on his part. They also plan on reducing their presence and any investment in the statement so long as that bill is allowed to continue. Infact he even put a plan into effect that would help any of his salesforce employees who were impacted by the law to move out of the state.
You would think Mike Pence would get the picture that he should go back and undue what he has done but instead he has said that he is not going to change anything unless his governing body comes back to him with changes.
Gen Con is a gaming and comic book convention held in the state that also plans to look elsewhere for their annual convention. After taking notice at what Mike Pence has done they are looking to take their million dollar program and put it into a state that does not encourage discrimination. The CEO of Gen Con has written a letter in response to SB 101 and what that could mean for future attendance in the state of Indiana. Click on the link to read the full letter. Learn what the law and Gen Con really means from this article as well.
Politicians have not been silent about this issue either with Hillary Clinton making it clear what her position is on this new law. She has been fighting a lot against discrimination in many areas, not just LGBT rights but also rights for pregnant women in workplaces (think about that for a minute, women are still fighting for equal rights in the workplace).
The governors of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, has also banned nonessential travel supported by tax payer dollars to the state of Indiana. It will probably follow that Arkansas will soon be on that list as well for other states banning travel to states that encourage discrimination.
In a compelling move by many athletic programs, NCAA and the NBA, Charles Barkley is asking that the final four program be taken out of Indiana because their new law allows business owners to discriminate about how attends. This law will extend to event sporting events and so many other areas. The NCAA said that he plans to continue but the fight between what is happening is only getting bigger. In a statement released by his agent, “Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me.” “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”
The NCAA did post a message on their twitter account about this as many pushed to find out what their position was on this issue.
Nike and Nascar have both made statements showing their support against the law in Indiana as well. This is big when even Nascar has to weigh in on the matter with many others feeling the same way in this article.
It will be a long time before these bills are repealed in states that have them because the challenge to them is that they do allow discrimination to take place, either for employment, housing, education, or anything having to do with fair-public access.
Learning from Mistakes Made
Arkansas was on track to pass a similar bill that was to close to all other states besides Indiana but after all the backlash Gov. Mike Pence has been dealing with this week the people in Arkansas finally took notice and did the right thing but not following in their foot steps and riding their coat tails for the publicity. They could have easily just taken advantage of the time to start pushing bills like this through but instead the Governor, encouraged by his own son, decided to rework the bill until it provided a fair and balanced view that matched the federal law. Here is the weird part about all this, the Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has already said that if it, “reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states,” then he will sign it.
This right away caused a huge firestorm of problems there too. This is why studying History is more important than most other subjects in school today but do most people understand that? No. Instead they listen to high priced advisers telling them that they should push ahead on this while the issue is still hot. Because you have conservatives pushing hard for their side, it resulted in the the CEO of Wal-Mart releasing this statement.
One of the largest employers in the state has voiced absolute opposition to this new bill. Of course this creates a whole new thing for Tech companies to join in on. Apple, Square, Box, Yelp, Salesforce and so many others are taking a stand that it is not ok to discriminate against anyone on the basis of who they are.
Axciom, a tech corporation, also wrote a letter by their CEO, Scott Howe, to Governor of Arkansas asking Hutchinson to veto the bill and do the right thing. Mr. Howe realizes the kind of pain this will inflict on citizens who live in that state that don’t enjoy the same benefits that straight people take for granted everyday.
In a public hearing news reporters finally got Gov. Mike Pence to agree that the new legislation they are working on this week will clarify that businesses will not be allowed to discriminate against people, including sexual orientation.
The Unintended Consequences for Everyone
The issue at hand with this bill is that it gives the unfair right to businesses to discriminate who uses their products or services. The most common example used is a florist or baker that is attacked for denying a gay couple flowers or a wedding cake for their wedding because it goes against their beliefs. SNL made a joke out of Starbucks when they made a parody of Mechanics trying to start a conversation with people about sensitive topics, just like Starbucks tried to do with their “Race Together” cause. Why should companies feel they need to “tell” people what to do with their life? In the video below you can see why allowing companies to intrude on people’s lives is not ok.
Why is it ok for companies to feel they can start movements with their customers but their customers cannot bring their issues, or who they are as a person, into their places of establishment? As you can see there should be a clear line about this but since the law allows doctors to discriminate on the medicines or services they provide to patients who might be obese, gay, or looking to get an abortion, why should businesses be any different then? Aren’t private practices the same thing as businesses? Of course they are so why not extend the same rights over? Why? Because it is wrong.
The law was also written in a way that allows businesses, churches, or any establishment to discriminate against anyone that infringes on their religious beliefs, so that means, Jews, Homosexuals, blacks, special interest groups can all be discriminated against under the protection of this new law. But Republicans don’t care or see it that way, they are only concerned with protecting the religious interests of businesses and religious affiliations. This was an issue they also said they would clarify in their new bill brought before the governor of Indiana by the end of the week.
In Michigan, the state approved their own Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that allows doctors and EMT medics to refuse to treat gay people if it goes against their religious beliefs. So much for following that oath you took in med school. What year do we live in again? It’s definitely not 2015 in some states that’s for sure. The excuse republican lawmakers use each and every time is to prevent government overreach. In this case I think more government overreach is necessary in order to prevent these kinds of laws from being passed (err, created in the first place). Unfortunately that is not how our system works in the US. Republicans are working to pass more laws that decrease the amount of government oversight in people’s lives, including taking away the regulation put in place to prevent another another collapse of our economy. Why would Republicans want to do that? It prevents Wallstreet from making more money and giving higher bonuses to consultants and CEOs. Humm…who’s really helping who here?
How did this get started?
After the Hobby Lobby ruling that made it legal for businesses to decide if they should be forced to provided contraceptive health care for their female employees it was easy for states to start using that same measure, which gave more power to businesses to discriminate against, to build a case of protecting religious beliefs, even though a corporation and the people who run them are kept separate. This was the backlash Chick-Fil-A got when they weighed in on their views of marriage. So why do businesses need to weigh in on these issues? I don’t need my mechanic telling me how I should raise my kids or what a marriage should be like so why should businesses be allowed to discriminate against who uses patronizes their business?
The Hobby Lobby ruling gave businesses religious protection under the law which expanded their power and opened a flood gate of problems from for-profit entities who wish to use religion as a controlling tool of their employees. A female employee who needs health benefits can no longer get contraceptive benefits if their employee does not support that, even though Universal Health Care states that all employers should provide full health coverage to all employees. When Hobby Lobby cried foul on that they took it to the supreme court and won the case which allowed them to tell their female employees what care they will provide, instead of actually caring about their employee needs and providing them with full coverage like they are supposed to. A company is supposed to take care of the people who run it, not control their lives.
This new loophole has encouraged conservative republicans to jump on the bandwagon and push for more Religious Freedom Restoration bills in other states, and as you can see in this map, 12 more states have introduced similar Religious Freedom bills into their legislature to be debated.
Why are Conservatives After this kind of law?
Now that most state’s amendments banning homosexual marriages are coming to an end, conservatives feel that this is their last line of defense to protect their values and religious beliefs. The reason for this is because they lost those elections to pass the bills back in the fall so they are bringing many of them back now that republicans carry the majority it makes it easier to pass their bills.
This paints a bad picture for the operation of businesses though in the long run. A business that thinks they can discriminate against certain types of customers today will only end up getting slammed on social media. If a small hotel’s rating in upper New York state can have their fancy 5 star rating dropped down to 1 after a customer posted a negative comment and charged them for it, thinks that they can get away with it then they are wrong. That hotel has lost a lot of business now that the news outlets have picked up on the story back in the fall.
More and more news outlets will be following any kind of business that discriminates and for that their Yelp and Angie list ratings will come tumbling down. They will end up losing business and they will eventually have to change or hold their ground and go out of business. Conservatives on the other hand will cry foul each and every time that they have to allow business for anyone they open their doors to, but isn’t that the point of doing business? To maximize your profits and get as many people interested in what you are doing, or is there another part of business they don’t teach you in those expensive business schools?
Many of those expensive schools need to start teaching that discrimination in any form is not ok and that if you do it then you just wasted all your money going to business school because you won’t be making much money later on if you limit who you do business with.
Local Discrimination Event in Austin
In an effort to showcase how some businesses in East Austin were discriminating a lawyer decided he would go around to certain stores and put up a sticker on the front of stores in a certain area saying that they only serve white people. The sticker had a symbol on it that looked like it was from the city of Austin. Th symbol used was to make it look official. The act was just a demonstration to show that businesses should not be discriminating against certain groups of people.
If a lawyer goes around and is making an issue out of something like this and businesses know they shouldn’t be discriminating then why it is ok for states to pass laws that allow businesses to discriminate? Remember these types of laws can be used in housing situations, schools, and even admittance into organizations. Bottom line, it’s not.
Course of Action to Follow
The challenge with this kind of law at the state level is that it does allow for discrimination on the side that religious beliefs are more important to follow then the people who make up their state. That itself is a very challenging issue to deal with, because any governing body must decide who comes first in matters like this. Do people who practice their religion, regardless of what it is, come before people who just want to be themselves or is it the other way around? or both?
How should the law handle those matters? Any business can say their religious beliefs prevent them from providing services but do those religious beliefs need to be among those that are “approved” first. The country follows a freedom of religious expression which means anyone can start and practice any religion they like and if by some chance they feel their beliefs are being challenged they can file for protection under this kind of law, even though they may have just made it up two months ago. There is more to the issue on that matter but if you think that what I just wrote sounds absurd and no human being would try and pull such a thing then you really don’t understand people and what they will go through just to get their way.
The best plan of action that so many celebrities, CEOs, musicians, and other politicians are calling for is to repeal these kinds of laws. Democrats in Indiana say the best thing to do is just repeal the whole thing and do away with it. The challenge now is republicans hold the majority and it will be that way for awhile so unless by some miracle of chance that colleges start making people learn correctly and create with minds equipped with actual critical thinking skills, it will be a very long time before laws like this get taken off the books. Religion is important to protect but so are the people who make up the people. This is why the matter is so charged because both sides count equally.
Please take a moment to read this personal column that George Takei wrote in regards to Indiana but also Arkansas.
Progress Wins All but discrimination does not
The outcome for this whole issue is one for the books on business and politics and how they can be a messy affair. The issue of this whole matter has shown what a deep, deep divide the matter of religious beliefs carry. There were so many parties involved that influenced this matter that sometimes even the governing bodies tend to overlook them. Indiana has finally come to a head on this matter by law makers writing in provisions that explain what businesses are allowed to use and not allowed.
The consequence of passing such a law that allowed for discrimination was huge but now that the whole matter has been fixed and the law clarified to include the following provision, “does not authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.”
Each of these measures now included can no longer be used as a defense for refusal of service in a civil or prosecution lawsuit, meaning that businesses can no longer cry foul on these matters. It might be time to start explaining what it means to really do business. You can not just set up shop and make it a “boys only club” because that would limit your purpose of doing business.
Many religious organizations that lobbied for the original say the new provisions destroyed the purpose of the law. The public support has already started to show up on twitter and more will soon follow. Now it is up to Arkansas to do the right thing and include protections against LGBT groups and others in the laws for the first time. Last week Gov. Mike Pence said that he had nothing on his future agenda saying that he would work on protecting the rights of LGBT people but with the right influence he managed to include it in his daily work.
The next time you ask something of someone that is important to deal with and they tell you don’t have the time, it just means they are trying to ignore it. so when a governor has the ability to include it into his busy schedule then it just takes the right influence for people in positions of power to see what issues they really need to be working on. This is a win for many people to come.
This what the NCAA had to say
Marc Benioff already posted a few things
Jon Stewart said it best when the Daily Show decided to show what Indiana and the lawmakers were really trying to do in this great episode. April 6th, 2015.
Thanks Jon for clearing up that mess and showing them what a mistake they were really making.