THE BLOG

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Is No Way to Govern

03/30/2015 12:02 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

You are so last century if you:

  • Print out MapQuest directions.
  • Use a Wang computer.
  • Rely on a BlackBerry but are not part of the federal government. (I was guilty of this one until six months ago.)

You are also trapped in the 20th century if your state enacts policies sanctioning discrimination like Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Critics of the law contend that individuals and businesses will be able to discriminate on the basis of their own religious beliefs -- particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Really? If so, this law places Indiana, along with the 19 other states with similar laws, not just in the 20th century but at a place in history where television was novel, Elvis was controversial, and Brown v. Board of Education was known largely by its docket number, 344 U.S. 1 (1952).

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence sought to justify the act by noting that President Barack Obama voted for a similar law while in the Illinois state legislature. It wouldn't matter if the law had the support of Nelson Mandela, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Fannie Lou Hamer; it's still wrong.

Moreover, the bill that Obama voted for was written over 20 years ago (last century). He since (this century) has become the first president in our nation's history to publicly support LGBT equality.

Doesn't this law have the stench of Jim Crow laws that prompted a bus boycott in Montgomery, a sit-in movement in Greensboro, and "freedom rides" in Alabama?

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin believes the law is constitutional because Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act appears similar to laws that the Supreme Court has upheld. But that doesn't make it right.

As the law is understood, a restaurant could not deny service to a member of the LGBT community, but a baker, for example, could cite his or her religious beliefs to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex couple.

It still opens a murky Pandora's box of possibilities. Could a firefighter or police officer cite religious freedom to become selective in performing their duties in lieu of their sworn oath to serve all?

Couldn't victims of this sordid discrimination at least receive a complimentary pink triangle for having to endure legally sanctioned tomfoolery?

If Toobin is correct about the legality of the law, it should remind us of the tragic commentary offered in Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail":

"We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal'...."

Though legal, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act violates Thomas Aquinas' "just law" theory.

Is this not a law inconsistent with moral law? Does it uplift human potential?

How is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act not a slippery slope that leads to the tyranny of the majority?

The phrase "tyranny of the majority" is used in discussing democracy and majority rule. In a strict majority-rule form of government, the majority is free to place its interests above those of the minority in a potentially oppressive way that is harmful to the overall democratic enterprise.

Invariably, tyranny of the majority occurs when there is dislike for the minority group.

But the very name of the law (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) suggests that somehow religious freedom was weakened. Such language is nothing more than what film director Alfred Hitchcock called a "MacGuffin."

According to Hitchcock, a MacGuffin is a plot device, usually introduced by the protagonist, that appears to possess some importance to the overall plot but typically has absolutely no importance.

In the case of the Indiana law, religious freedom doesn't require restoration. But the language is critical because it allows the victimizer to take on the persona of victim, hiding behind religion to discriminate, hence the MacGuffin comparison.

When a law has inequality at its core, it is unable to appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Such laws tend to have traction not because of the coalition that supports these Neanderthal ideas but because of those who remain on the sidelines, feeling unaffected by the outcome, offering silent consent.

Acquiescing to the myopic feelings of one group could have untold negative ramifications for others. That is simple no way to govern.