The attempts at manipulating the public around the issue of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) have exposed dangers that extend beyond this legislation. Supporters of this bill, including the Governor, have lied to us by continuing to say this law is the same as those in a number of other states, and the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Governor extended the lie by saying it contained the same language as the RFRA bill Barack Obama voted for when he was an Illinois state senator.
The Indiana bill has language that is much more intrusive. The Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” That is not included in the Federal or other state’s laws (except for Texas’ passed in 1999). This gives for-profit businesses rights matching those of individuals and churches. This gives for-profit businesses protections against private lawsuits from individuals, not just from the actions of the government. Protection from government intrusion, not individuals and businesses, was the intention of the Federal RFRA. Whatever the intention of the Indiana RFRA was, that bill allows for-profit businesses to refuse to serve anyone, if the business has a religious objection to something about the individual.
This law was specifically written to allow business to refuse to serve anyone based on their own (owners) preferences. Sheila Kennedy, Professor of Law at IUPUI, explains what is wrong with this extremely well here: http://sheilakennedy.net/2015/03/cakes-pork-chops-and-sb-101/
A mental image might also be helpful. I recently saw a photo of young black people sitting at a lunch counter in a 60s era photo. The caption reads “Indiana, In case you’ve missed it, we’ve already had this conversation. You do not get to decide who sits at the lunch counter. Love, America”
When the Governor was interviewed on ABC Sunday morning, every time he was asked to answer yes or no, does this law make it possible to discriminate against a gay person in Indiana, he refused to say it did not. When asked if Indiana was going to pass legislation protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community, he said, “No, that is not on my agenda.”