Religion v. Civil Rights—Controversial religious freedom law passed in several states

A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by several states, most recently Indiana and Arkansas, has been aimed to protect religious freedom. As read in the exact words from the law, it will compel courts to subject religious discrimination to strict scrutiny standards, since currently religious discrimination has been only subjected to rational basis standards, the lowest standard to prove discrimination. With this consideration, it would potentially allow religious business owners, such as bakers or florists, an easier way to defend themselves from turning away a customer because he/she is gay or transgender.

This, as a result, brings up the discussion of religion and business–to what extent can religion extend in public and the line between freedom of religion and discrimination in public accommodations. Since, the debates and questions with this act hinges predominantly on the religious aversion to same-sex marriage and therefore maintains that those believers should not be compelled to provide for services for same-sex couples.

With same-sex marriage becoming more and more accepted, “winning the battle,” such law shows the considerable opposition to this issue. It also shows that despite America’s being known as a “melting pot” of different cultures, ethnicities, and just people in general, there’s still a strong traditionalist movement deeply rooted in religion and largely in the American Midwest, the Great Plains.


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