Religious freedom bill becomes law in Indiana

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from MSNBC,

Bucking intense criticism from citizens, celebrities, tech leaders, and convention customers, Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence quietly signed a controversial religious freedom bill into law on Thursday. Opponents warn the measure will sanction discrimination against LGBT people, and cost the Hoosier State millions in tourism revenue.

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” the governor said in a statement released shortly after he signed Senate Bill 101, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA.) “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

The new law will prohibit a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s religious beliefs, unless that entity can prove it’s relying on the least restrictive means possible to further a compelling governmental interest. It’s modeled off of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which gained notoriety in the Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby ruling last year. That decision found that closely-held corporations wouldn’t have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate if the owners had a sincerely-held religious objection to birth control.

Supporters say RFRA is designed to protect people’s religious beliefs from unnecessary government intrusion. But opponents argue the measure serves as a license to discriminate, particularly against LGBT people, on religious grounds.

In the past week, a wide array of critics put pressure on Pence to veto the measure, including actor and director George Takei, the CEO of Salesforce, and the organizers of Gen Con – billed on its website as “the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world.” Adrian Swartout, CEO and owner of Gen Con LLC, said in a letter addressed to Pence that if Indiana’s RFRA became law, he would consider moving the convention to a different state in future years – a move that’s expected to cost Indiana more than $50 million annually.

But Pence pushed back against the accusation that the religious freedom measure would open the door to discrimination.

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