Views on Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

Erik Eckholm points to “eroding freedom in the name of freedom: … Over time, court decisions and conservative legal initiatives started to change the meaning of those laws, according to liberal activists. The state laws were not used to protect minorities, these critics say, but to allow some religious groups to undermine the rights of women, gays and lesbians or other groups.”

Michael Lindenberger: “Indiana doesn’t need a new law to permit businesses from discriminating against gay customers. It’s perfectly legal to do that right now … In Indiana, and in most other states, businesses who want to discriminate against gay customers face no obstacles under state law in doing so. The few statewide discrimination protections that do exist are mostly limited to employment, and often enough only cover government workers.”

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board argues that the controversy reveals a new intolerance that targets religion: “In the increasingly bitter battle between religious liberty and the liberal political agenda, religion is losing. Witness the media and political wrath raining down upon Indiana because the state dared to pass an allegedly anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The question fair-minded Americans should ask before casting the first stone is who is really being intolerant.”

Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post notes the flip-flop in economics of exclusiveness, given the current outcry: “This is an astonishing, and inspiring, turn of events. If in [economist Gary] Becker’s day firms feared that customers would punish them for inclusiveness, today firms fear customers will instead punish them for exclusiveness. If in the past, to stay competitive and attract the most desirable talent, you needed to be discriminatory, today the opposite may be becoming true. Hooray for markets being on the right side of history.”

The New York Times Editorial Board: “Religion should not be allowed to serve as a cover for discrimination in the public sphere. In the past, racial discrimination was also justified by religious beliefs, yet businesses may not refuse service to customers because of their race. Such behavior should be no more tolerable when it is based on sexual orientation.”


  1. The WSJ editorial board appears to be out of step with the vast majority of its business constituency. Way to go, Rupert.

  2. I really like the historical context of that point by Rampbell in the Washington Post.

    If this outcry is indicative of more permanent trends, she is saying that the main critiques of Gary Becker’s “moral capital” thesis — that it can lead to immoral majoritarian commercial ploys — is now inverted due to a new public inclusiveness.

    I never discounted moral capital as a social science metric, just as a useful delineation for determining policy. Seems like things may be improving all around if CEOs are protesting on the same lines as musicians and comedians (Wilco and Offerman/Mullaly). (The fact that twitter makes “going to the lines” so easy also helps, I’m sure.)

    1. Thanks. Read the WP article and you are right in that it does a good job in explaining the historical context. I find it interesting that religious people outnumber gay people by a very large magnitude and yet they are claiming that tthey need the protection.It reminds me of the fake “war on christmas” stories that Faux News runs every year.

      1. The folks demanding the protection from the gays are a minority in religion. Even Evangelicals are moving on this issue.

  3. To make this forceful a stand on declaring the right to discriminate against gays BASED ON THE SCRIPTURE of a particular religion, amounts to a strong argument (very strong, in my view) that that particular religion is not a force for the good of mankind. When does this element to the issue finally get addressed?

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