On the EDge: Unlike Utah, Indiana’s homophobic Religious Freedom Restoration Act draws protests

Graphic, St. George News

OPINION – Four weeks from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will start hearing arguments on same-sex marriage.

By most accounts, it’s expected that SCOTUS will rule favorably before the end of June.

As a result, conservative lawmakers across the nation have rallied desperately to pass legislation that will allow discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

It happened here in Utah already, with a smoke and mirrors bit of law that on one hand is supposed to ensure equality in the workplace and elsewhere while still allowing others to continue their homophobic discrimination, as long as it is based on religious expression.

Because there are more than 50 shades of religion, the term “religious expression” can range from the sacramental use of peyote during religious ceremonies to the practice of polygamy in its ugliest forms of child sexual abuse, as we have seen in the neighboring community of Short Creek.

Indiana is the latest state to sign on to this foolishness.

Last week, Gov. Mike Pence signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which immediately ignited protests.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is headquartered in Indiana, was the first to respond, with NCAA President Mark Emmert questioning if future collegiate championship contests should be conducted in the state.

The NCAA’s Final Four tournament will be played this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where next year the women’s Final Four competition will also be held. Indianapolis is also set to host the early round NCAA tournament games in 2017 and the men’s finals in 2021. The stadium is also signed to host the Big Ten Football Championship through 2021 as well as next year’s NFL combine.

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” Emmert said in a statement released by the NCAA. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.

“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.

“Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

The bill also drew negative response from the business community.

The CEO of Angie’s List announced that he has cancelled plans to expand its headquarters in the state, the head of Salesforce.com, a global computing cloud company, said he will no longer allow his employees to travel to Indiana for business, as did the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco; and Yelp and Apple have condemned the new law.

Why wasn’t Utah hit with such backlash when its new LGBT/religious freedom restoration act was passed?

Because, it is Utah, a place where such a bill is not unexpected.

Utah is not a very welcoming place.

The state motto is simply, “Industry.”

It might just as well be, “If you don’t like it, leave.”

But, life is never as simple as that.

A lot of people are tied to the state because of family, jobs, and homes they paid a lot of money for that most will never see a return on.


Forget about it. Utah is 91 percent white, 62 percent Mormon. There is no diversity in those numbers, and there is little evidence that the Utah Legislature does much to represent people outside of that demographic. And, while it is true that Salt Lake City has an LGBT population larger than one would suspect, the underlying homophobia cannot be disguised.

At some point, younger, wiser minds will strike down this rash of religious freedom laws, but for many, it will be too late.

The bottom line is that by allowing this sort of discrimination, these laws carve deep chasms in social equality.

Your right to pursue your religion is guaranteed and as long as you do not infringe on anybody else’s freedoms or rights, you are free to practice whatever faith you wish, whether it involves worshipping alien monkey babies from Mars or practicing more traditional faiths.

But, the moment you infringe on my rights, or the rights of others, simply because your version of religion disapproves of what we believe or how we behave, you have stepped over the line.

You step over the line when you refuse services to anybody because of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.

You step over the line when you deny rights, such as marriage, health and life insurance benefits, or partnership rights because of a person’s race, creed, or sexual orientation.

You step over the line when you knock on my door or accost me on the street to try to persuade me to become a member of your faith when I clearly have no interest.

This does not mean that those who oppose these outrageous new laws are godless heathens.

Indeed, the opposite is true.

People of faith believe in treating everyone equally, fairly, respectfully. They are aghast at any law that would deprive a fellow human being of their inalienable rights.

Conservatives are howling that the Indiana law and its clones simply mirror a federal law authored by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and signed by President Bill Clinton that secured religious rights.

Not entirely true.

That law was rooted in ensuring that American Indian groups would be allowed to use peyote in a religious ritual, something that they had been doing for more than 5,000 years.

The new laws, however, are rooted in giving bigots an out should they be sued for refusing services or rights to members of the LGBT community.

All they have to do is stand up in a courtroom and say is: “It’s against my religious beliefs” and be done.

Sorry, but I don’t think God would be very happy to learn that His children are mistreating each other in His name.

But, of course, this isn’t the first time that has occurred.

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • eiznem March 31, 2015 at 9:14 am

    S l o w c l a p

  • BIG GUY March 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Another round of over-the-top excess from an intolerant man.

    It’s a paradox that even as America has become more tolerant of gays, many activists and liberals like Ed have become ever-more intolerant of anyone who holds more traditional cultural or religious views. Mozilla’s CEO was run out after people like Ed discovered that he had donated money to a California’s Proposition 8. That’s Ed’s brand of tolerance and religious freedom.

    Gays, lesbians and all kinds of folks are welcome in my business as employees and as customers. They are not required to share my values. But Ed, I should not be required to share theirs or yours. Tolerance cuts both ways.

    Utah’s law is significantly more targeted than is Indiana’s. No one in Utah is denied any service by any government office. But somehow Ed is livid that there might be a government employee somewhere who is not wearing a rainbow T-shirt when Ed walks in. Should a man wearing KKK robes have the right to demand being served by an African-American government employee when others are standing nearby? How about a man with swastikas and anti-Semitic tattoos demanding to be served by a Jewish government employee?

    Ed demands a non-existent right to be left alone on the street while demanding that the rest of us embrace his cultural agenda. Hypocrisy unlimited.

    • fun bag March 31, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      blah blah blah blah blah blah DARN LIBRULS! …………………blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ……………..ON AND ON

      • mesaman March 31, 2015 at 8:22 pm

        Did it take you long to think this one up, scumbag?

        • Freelance April 1, 2015 at 12:42 pm

          Did it take you long to think this one up dirt bag.?

    • Robb March 31, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Oh, lefties like Ed can’t, by definition, be intolerant. Or stupid, for that matter. Lefties, in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary, are always more tolerant, caring, brilliant and erudite; not to mention well groomed and snappy dressers.

    • c3poh March 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      So true. The best logical argument Fun Bag has is “blah blah blah”, which quite eloquently sums up his/her side of the argument (forgive me if I attempt to use gender to identify you, Fun Bag). It is astonishing that conservative representation in our government is still somewhat balanced in the numbers, considering how slanted and deceptive the majority of the media “folks” out there are. Their ploy against conservatives and, dare I say, Christians? Shout them down, call them racists, haters, homophobes, whatever it takes. But they don’t actually employ logic because they have none. They don’t actually try to meet in the middle because the middle is not where they want to be. “blah blah blah”

      Masha Gessen, a revered advocate for all things alternative, put it perfectly. This is the real motive behind gay marriage. Listen to her on YT in her own words. http://tinyurl.com/nhb6hdv

      At the end of this YT video, she lays out how her relationship paths and consequent child rearing consequences are all something to be proud of. Really?

      This is the problem with Ed Kociela’s supposed plea for tolerance. For him and his side it’s not about tolerance at all. It’s about obliterating our culture as we now know it. True middle ground with mutual respect and tolerance? “blah blah blah”

  • Paul March 31, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Thank you Big Guy for coming up with the words that I have been struggling with. As usual, Ed can’t see the light of day because of where he prefers to have his head planted, which limits his view to being something less than narrow.

  • Jensen March 31, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Imagine this Ed. Gays hate the straight Christians.


  • izzymuse March 31, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    If Utah’s bill is so horrible, WHY did the LGBT community of Utah agree to it and seem so happy with it? All the news stories showed happy people — on both sides (even the story in the SLTribune). If the LGBT community wasn’t happy, including their reps in the ACLU that worked with them I’m sure, they should’ve fought it. What’s happening behind the “smoke and mirrors” here in Utah, Ed?

  • Roy J April 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    I think it is a little unfair labelling somebody homophobic for seriously practicing their LDS or Catholic faith. So far as I know, the law demands that we tolerate each other only to the point of not infringing upon each other’s basic human rights. But saying this cannot possibly mean that someone who is a practicing Catholic must disavow, or not act upon, their own religious belief that homosexuality is an aberration of nature, the practice of which is sinful. Either the law allows for both opinions to be held according to their principles, or it does not. Also, there is a difference and degree among professions that must be taken into account when determining whether or not someone is unlawfully refusing services to individuals. It ought to be clear to everyone who considers the facts that it is almost always unlawful not to sell somebody a pizza at a regularly licensed establishment under common conditions; and is should be equally obvious that the same establishment can obviously refuse catering service to a nudist volleyball tournament.

  • Roy J April 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    And I certainly do have the right to accost you on the street up on top of my soap-box, with or with out a megaphone. And I can knock on your door if I want to (unless you have a ‘No Soliciting’ sign). That is exactly the same thing as a newsie hocking papers on the streets with a wagon and a sandwich board, and political/religious radio advertisements, as the eye-grabbing title of an op-ed piece. The only difference is a difference in kind…

    • fun bag April 7, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      sounds like Roy is off his meds again

  • Roy J April 8, 2015 at 11:15 am

    HAHAHA! Case in point: FUN BAG can accost you and your commentators in the opinions of opinions section.

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