The Indiana state voted 39-11 in favor of a bill that explicitly permits faith-based hiring on February 3, 2015. The bill licenses companies and organizations to give a preference in employment to people of a particular faith. More so, it could result to requiring all employees to conform to the religious tenets of the institution.
The legislation covers all organizations that contract with the state and institutions with strong religious ties, like certain schools and hospitals. Several debates already surround the topic with supporters saying it will protect people with strong religious beliefs, and opponents saying it would only perpetuate discrimination against gays and others.
Exemption from the Right to Freedom from Discrimination
The bill was penned by Senator Scott Schneider of Indianapolis and was modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed under President Bill Clinton to protect religious minorities. Schneider asserted that he intends to close the gaps in Indiana’s religious liberty framework.
“The focus has been on same-sex marriage because that’s the hot topic right now, but it goes far beyond that. It’s important to have some religious freedom and protection,” Schneider was quoted saying. Senator Travis Holdman, who also contributed to drafting the measure, claims that the bill borrowed language from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. There is however an exemption for “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion,” hence Senate Bill No. 127 was born.
“It’s not a legal license to discriminate,” Holdman was quoted by the Star. “It just says we’re going to pull ourselves in line with federal law that allows for this kind of carve-out, this kind of exemption, for faith-based organizations.” He remains steadfast in his view that this bill is meant to protect freedom and religious liberty.
The Truth on Senate Bill No. 127
Although the pro-discrimination bill is aimed only at organizations that take public moneys, exempting state and local governments, it still, essentially, allows business owners “to use their religious beliefs to justify refusing services for a same-sex couple’s wedding,” superseding any municipal non-discrimination laws for the protection of the rights of LGTBQ people.
The proponents of the bill themselves openly admit its intent was to allow for discrimination against LGBTQ people. State Rep. Ed DeLaney, said that the bill will create a problem where there is none and will just distract legislators and senators from focusing on important topics, such as schools and wages. This is only one of the many implications of the bill, and one that involves the most heated debates as of the moment. It can also influence career plans, education endeavors and personal state of affairs.
“We are not being prevented from exercising our faith, nor are we being forced to do something we don’t want to do,” DeLaney said in a separate statement, expressing his lament over the situation. Indiana is a state where lawmakers have quibbled over gender issues frequently in recent years, which resulted to pro-discrimination legislations while LGBTQ protection stagnates and is put on hold.
If the Indiana measure passes the state House of Representatives, the Senate Bill No. 127 will be effective on July 1, 2015.