What Makes Indiana's Religious-Freedom Law Different?
I consider myself a religious person. I love Buddhism. I love going to mass at Catholic and Orthodox churches. I'm interested in the poetry and mysticism of Sufism. I find that religion enriches my understanding of life. But the intolerance and oppressiveness of many who call themselves religious makes it hard for me to fully immerse myself in my spirituality and to be open about. I'm embarrassed, frankly, to be associated with people who think being gay is a sin and/or try to restrict women's reproductive rights.
Another thing that really annoys me is how many religious people in the West, particularly Christians, complain about how they feel persecuted, saying that it's hard to be openly religious these days because of growing secularism. Sure, there are a lot more people who are vocal about their issues with religion these days; but can you blame them? Just look at our history. If anyone is persecuted and oppressed in our society besides the poor (and Native Americans), it's the non-religious, women, and the LGBT community. And most of the persecution the religious do experience usually comes at the hands of other religious (e.g., Protestants vs. Catholics, etc.).
This country is still predominately a Christian nation. According to Pew, 78% of people in the US self-identify as Christian. The evidence is everywhere. It's on our money. It's in the Pledge of Allegiance. It's witnessed in the National Day of Prayer and every law banning same-sex marriage and restricting women's access to abortions and contraception. And despite their actions, most politicians profess to be Christian because it's damn near political suicide to be anything else (especially atheist). From a 2010 ABC News article:
[A] 2007 Pew survey found that 45 percent of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a Muslim. 61 percent said they would be less likely to vote for an atheist. Only 25 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. Sixteen percent said they would be less likely to vote for an Evangelical and 11 percent would be less likely to vote for a Jewish candidate.
The fact is, it's almost always those of religious faith who try to impose their ideas and morals onto the rest of society, not vice versa. Nobody's trying to force those against it to enter into a same-sex marriage; but those against it feel it's perfectly OK to impose their beliefs about marriage onto the rest of the country through gay marriage bans (and anti-sodomy laws before that). Nobody's trying to force religious people to have abortions or use contraception if they're against it; but it's religious people and institutions who are actively trying to limit women's access to both.
Don't get me wrong, I believe that a person should have the freedom to practice their religion as they see fit so long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights and freedoms of others. I want to be free to explore and express my faith (or lack thereof) in whatever way I choose. But let's face it, these kinds of laws are more about legalizing discrimination than protecting religious freedom. Instead of more Religious Freedom Restoration Acts protecting religion from society, what we really need is a Freedom From Religion Act to protect society from religion.