Indiana has caught a lot of well-deserved flak for their new religious-freedom law, and today the governor promised to clarify it to make clear that it won’t allow discrimination. People are, understandably, asking why not just scrap the law? And why would anyone think a religious-freedom law might be an OK idea?
If you read Indiana’s law, it’s actually a pretty good law — one of a class of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) that the federal government and nineteen other states also have. The ACLU supports RFRA laws as helping ensure civic freedom. These have been authored with no intent of allowing discrimination, and to my knowledge have never been successfully used as such (although there was an attempt in New Mexico, which failed in court). So let’s take a look under the hood and see what these RFRA laws really say, and what makes Indiana’s law different.¹