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Biblical Passages Make Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Even More Controversial

Updated on March 29, 2015
Indiana governor Mike Pence has been criticized for signing a law that critics say could be used to justify discrimination against homosexuals by private businesses.
Indiana governor Mike Pence has been criticized for signing a law that critics say could be used to justify discrimination against homosexuals by private businesses. | Source

Indiana "Religious Freedom" Law Has Many Critics

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the first amendment of the United States Constitution, which provides for freedom of expression. In America, you are free to practice whichever religion you choose. But how far can you go in bringing your religious beliefs into the public sphere? While you may preach and proselytize in public, as well as wear religious messages and paraphernalia, can you deny service to customers at your place of business based on your religious beliefs?

The possibility that new "religious freedom" laws may allow business owners to deny service to certain individuals, likely gays and lesbians, has irked many Americans. While the state of Arizona did not pass a controversial "religious freedom" law last year, reports the Washington Post, the state of Indiana just has. According to TIME, Indiana governor Mike Pence is currently on the defensive after signing the law into being, claiming that protecting business proprietors' religious freedom is not analogous to allowing discrimination. However, Pence has refused to clarify whether or not the law would allow business owners to refuse service to homosexuals.

Pence has also said that making gays and lesbians a "protected class" is not currently a priority for his administration.

Though many Americans may not worry that allowing business proprietors the right to exercise "religious freedom" in conducting daily operations is going too far, The Washington Post says that nineteen states have passed laws similar to the one in Indiana. Also, while many Americans may not be particularly outraged at the idea that business owners might use such laws to justify discrimination against homosexuals, they should be aware that Biblical passages have also been used to justify discrimination against women and minorities in the past.

According to, Colossians 3:18 tells wives to submit to their husbands, as does Ephesians 5:22. The online version of the King James Bible lists several more verses. Could business proprietors use these scriptures to justify their refusal to do business with women, instead insisting on only dealing with men?

The Christian Bible Reference Site mentions that people have attempted to use Exodus 34:10-16 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 to justify racial discrimination. Henry G. Brinton wrote in USA Today that preachers in the American South prior to, and during, the Civil War referenced Ephesians 6:5 and Titus 2:9 to justify slavery. Could business owners reference these passages to justify refusal to serve, or do business with, African Americans and other racial minorities?

Those who are not worried about religious freedom laws because they view discrimination against homosexuals as minimal, or not widespread, must reconsider. Not only is such discrimination wrong in and of itself, but "religious freedom" can be used to justify discrimination against anyone. While religious conservatives no longer quote scripture to justify the subjugation of women and minorities, they once did.

And they might again, if given the opportunity.


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