Why You Might Have The Wrong Idea About The Religious Freedom Act

I want to make something clear from the beginning: Progress is, by definition, about moving forward.

Discrimination isn't progress. It is being stuck in a frame of mind that hinders the very idea of progress.

Indiana Governor Pence recently enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that allows businesses to refuse service to anyone on the basis of protecting their “religious freedoms.”

Governor Pence has since received backlash from critics arguing that this opens the door for discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

The purpose of the legislation is to restore a prior standard of religious exemptions. But, that’s where the problem is.

While the RFRA doesn’t specifically allow for prejudice against the LGBTQ community, it has certainly allowed people to do so.

The belief that homosexuality is a sin and that those who practice it are sinners is a widespread belief among many evangelical Christians.

The idea that gays and lesbians are sinful and immoral is something that is believed and accepted to be true in many facets of the Christian community.

This isn’t news to anybody.

People who may not agree with others apart from themselves should have the right to express their right to their religious convictions.

Conversely, people of various lifestyles have the right to live their lives according to their convictions.

That’s what America is all about: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What isn’t okay is to limit any person of their humanity. Legalized discrimination is the opposite. After decades of civil rights struggles, prejudice, marginalization and segregation against various portions of the population, we need to analyze our actions in the scope of humanity. Nothing more.

I am a firm believer that sexuality and faith were meant to walk hand in hand, never to be put on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Let’s not forget Jesus ate with thieves and hung out with hookers. Having said that, I do not think either side is purely correct.

I am not even saying either side doesn’t have a political agenda; we are human, and we are all flawed. However, people who are in favor of protecting their “religious freedoms” too often leave out the fact they believe everyone is a sinner. Yeah, even themselves. Let’s admit to that, first.

I recognize there might be a baker who might have a problem with someone because they don’t see eye to eye. I recognize an individual might have been hurt by the rules and regulations of some religious groups.

But, change comes by relationships. Relationships create trust and the ability to speak to each other uniquely.

Think about it this way: If a business owner has a problem with homosexual people because the business owner believes they are sinners, then that business owner should have a problem with every person who walked into the business that day.

But, I have a feeling this law has become blown way out of proportion. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate; that would undermine our important civil rights foundations. Instead, it has been a long-lasting code to create a balancing test, not a free-for-all.

Media outlets often are looking to suppress religious liberties of many kinds. That isn’t to say some religious groups haven’t put a bad taste in the mouths of plenty. However, we are all entitled to the same natural rights, history, beliefs and basic civility as anyone.

Stop making this a war. Start making this an effort to understand each other. Recognize that a business owner, medical professional, even a baker who invoked the act as a “license” to participate in any type of discrimination would and should lose.

People need to realize change doesn’t happen by throwing stones. I am also not suggesting we all hold hands and sing "Ring Around the Rosy" around a tree with our names etched in it. I’m not so naive to think our problems will be solved overnight.

Start thinking of others as people. Start making change through relationships. Because most people didn’t leave the church running away from caring relationships. They ran away from prejudice, hurt and religion.

If we want to combine our sides, we need to start being informed, a little open-minded and simply kind.

It is not about compromise. It is about progress.

*This has been a a collaboration between Josh Ward (@yupitsjosh) and Paulina Jayne Isaac (@paulinajayne15).

Paulina Jayne Isaac is a student at Temple University studying Journalism and Sociology. Her work has been published on sites including Her Campus, College Magazine, Thought Catalog and more.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.