Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

Posted on May 1, 2015 by

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The recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in Indiana has been yet another controversial issue in the world of religion. The Law gives business’ the ability to deny gay, lesbian and transgendered citizens service in the name of protecting their religious beliefs.  Those who have just now heard about this issue and want to better educate themselves on the subject are likely to run into some problems. Depending on what source you are viewing you may or may not get many mixed messages. The side supporting the Law tends to be a Conservative Religious crowd, while the opposition to the law mainly consists of Liberal Progressives in favor of Gay Rights. Because this particular issue is one that divides our two prominent political parties many news sources tend to pick sides. The result of this is that opposing schools of thought tend to become antagonized. When it comes to the Religious Freedom Law it is especially crucial for Americans to research multiple perspectives pertaining to the issue.

Most of the coverage related to this topic is provided by sources that have a clear opinion that they believe to be correct. However, there are some neutral sources that can be helpful towards understanding the issue.  Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post does a good job of being simple, clear and resourceful while reporting on the RFRA in his article “Why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law Is Such a Big Deal”. By not expressing his personal opinions about the Law, he’s showing that his main goal is not to enforce a political agenda but to inform his audience on the Law. At the beginning of the article he immediately clarifies that there are two opposing sides dealing with the issue. There are those who claim this law is to simply protect the religious beliefs of business owners and there is the opposing side that believes that the law is intended to target and discriminate against the Gay community. He doesn’t pick a side, only explains that they exist. Cohn provides specific historical examples that explain why the bill was created and praised by some yet frowned upon by others. By doing this he informs his audience without influencing their opinion on the subject.

Canon and Culture is a project created by the Southern Baptist Convention. Their intentions are to inform the public on social issues from a Christian perspective. Canon and Culture recently released an online article titled, “Why Indiana’s New Religious Restoration Act Makes Good Sense”. Just by reading the title of the article the audience has a clear understanding as to what side of the argument the author, Michael J. DeBoer is on. If that’s not enough to show what stance he takes on the subject, the article displays above the title containing a sign that reads, “Protect Religious Freedom”. DeBoer identifies the opposition to the Religious Freedom Law as progressive proponents of Gay Rights. He goes on to say that the opposition fails to display a “commitment to accuracy in their communications about the legislation”. DeBoer also claims that those against the Law “have rallied opposition based upon misunderstanding and misinformation, upon fear and myth”. I did notice that DeBoer never clearly states to the audience what these misunderstandings are. He also doesn’t specify as to what the fear and myths are that his opposition is creating. It is important to acknowledge that there is a hypothetical chance that everything this author says in the article is true. But, because he doesn’t provide clear examples to support his claims he is failing to show evidence to the audience. For that reason he has weakened his argument.

USA Today released an article titled “What the religious ‘freedom law’ really means for Indiana” along with a video link. This article represents those who oppose the law. One method that the video uses is to show the audience businesses and celebrities that are against the law. It contains a clip of the CEO of Angie’s List stating that he is disappointed in the law and has put a stop to the forty million dollar production of a new headquarters in Indiana. It also mentions a Washington Post article where Apple CEO Tim Cook makes a powerful comparison between the RFRA and restaurants refusing service to African Americans before the Civil Rights Act. Then it goes on to show tweets from Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus and Charles Barkley that bash the law. This argumentative tactic could either be a way of strengthening the USA Today’s standpoint on the issue or it could be a way for them to try to gain support from audience members who support Apple, Angie’s List and the celebrities listed. It is important for audience members to choose how they view this subject based upon ideology and fact rather than by listening to what a celebrity tweets. No matter what side of the argument you are on, most Americans would agree that Miley Cyrus isn’t quite fit to influence the political opinion of others. Either way this strategy is effective for what it is trying to accomplish.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a key example of how to this day religion is extremely relevant in America. The result of this Law is much like the result of the similar political and religious issue of Marriage Equality. They have both divided the country nearly down the middle, creating heated controversial arguments. Also they both tend to have two sides to the argument which tend to be represented by our two main political parties. Because the controversy over RFRA affects so many and has the potential to be a nation-wide policy it is crucial that people don’t blindly pick a side to the debate. This happens when someone gets all of their information from a single news source and is convinced that they know the truth after reading only one article or watching just one video. It can also occur when someone strongly affiliates themselves with one particular political party and agrees with them as soon as they hear what side the party has taken.

Works Cited (APA)

Articles

Cohn, J. (n.d.). Why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law Is Such A Big Deal. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/indiana-religious-freedom_n_6984156.html

Indiana governor approves changes to religious freedom law. (2015, April 2). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/04/02/indiana-lawmakers-unveil-changes-to-religious-freedom-bill/

Things you missed about Indiana’s religion law – CNNPolitics.com. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/01/politics/indiana-religion-law-text/

Why Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Restoration Act Makes Good Sense. (2015, March 30). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.canonandculture.com/why-indianas-new-religious-freedom-restoration-act-makes-good-sense/

Star, S. (2015, March 31). What the ‘religious freedom’ law really means for Indiana. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/03/29/religious-freedom-law-really-means-indiana/70633532/

Joosting@mlive.com, J. (n.d.). Religious Freedom Restoration Act bad for business, Michigan companies tell lawmakers. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/04/religious_freedom_restoration.html

Tim Cook: Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pro-discrimination-religious-freedom-laws-are-dangerous-to-america/2015/03/29/bdb4ce9e-d66d-11e4-ba28-f2a685dc7f89_story.html

Videos

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Czar Defends Its Anti-Gay Law – CONAN on TBS. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDhq-lUSgKs

Gov. Mike Pence on Religious Freedom Law. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHjZvtHFuaA

Backlash over Indiana’s religious freedom law heats up. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://bcove.me/z4xtxf5w

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