The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act



The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed in March 2015. As such, it has faced a lot of backlash from various groups among them civil rights and minority groups due to its impact on the various rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by people along both sides of the divide. This essay is an analysis of the various issues surrounding the issue of discrimination on religious grounds and whether or not the government should allow conservatives to deny services to minority groups. It aims to satisfy this question by analyzing this law and others that allow for this form of discrimination by analysis of the following.

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Do laws such as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act allow for discrimination?

In order to properly analyze whether laws like Religious Freedom Restoration Act allow discrimination, it is important to expound on the word discrimination. Discrimination is the unjust treatment of different categories of people upon the reliance of various grounds. It encompasses the creation of rules to segregate minorities based on differences of sex, race age and most recently, sexual orientation (Ledeman 416).

From this, it can be witnessed that the act along with others that allow businesses to close their doors to a portion of their customers based on different leanings is discrimination. With states like Arkansas having passed a law that is similar to this one, the important question remains whether businesses refusing to sell products to same sex couples would be liable in a discrimination suit. In order to prove discrimination, various factors have to exist, such as the capacity in the law to allow for discrimination as a crime for a city in which the refusal occurs.

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In addition to this, whether laws like the one passed in Indiana allow for discrimination depends on the viewpoint of the community, judge and the persons involved. This is because of the variance in opinion on the first Amendment as well as religious freedoms that are allowed in America. Some people view this law as a shield that protects their religious beliefs such as conservatives while others look at it as a sword that cuts down their freedoms such as the minorities affected (Ledeman 416). Thus although acts like these provide for the discrimination of a minority people based on certain actions or inactions, it is another challenge for the affected to prove this in court. Discrimination indeed does occur due to the actions that are portrayed by business owners hiding under the religious freedoms act.

The Rectification of the First Amendment by the Government

The first Amendment right allows for the protection of religious freedoms and rights. However, in recent times, the impact of this amendment has witnessed the legal discrimination of minority groups by business owners due to the establishment of legislation in protecting the religious conservatives. Throughout history, after the abolishment of slavery, and the advent of the civil rights movement, the country witnessed the introduction of Jim Crow laws to discriminate ethnic minorities. Through the action of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination was banned for those barring discrimination and segregation in various sectors.

This Act was the first rectification of the first Amendment right because discrimination occurred in the minority class under the guise of religious freedoms and the supremacy of races (Kotz & Rizen 60). Furthermore, the impact of laws like the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act is witnessed through the action of the government through the various cases in the Supreme Court attempting to find a consensus between the conservatives and liberals. Through this action, the government passed the Federal Freedom Religious law that deems to rectify the First Amendment by proposing the need for a ‘substantial burden’ and ‘compelling interests’ in cases where religious freedoms are called into question (DiGiacomo 103).

This means that the government seeks to rectify the First Amendment and its freedoms by allowing for a priority of non-interference unless it has to. Furthermore, the impact of the government’s noninterference allows for various regions, territories and towns make their own laws on the extent to which these discrimination laws can be extended to. Thus the government rectifies the First Amendment by implementing a system that allows the autonomy of various regions to a certain degree as long as they don’t infringe on the civil rights laws of citizens.

Should businesses be allowed to justify denying services to someone on religious grounds?

Conservative Christians and other pundits believe that people should not be compelled to go against their beliefs, be they religious or not. However, this topic often draws critique on how far people, the government and other bodies are willing to go before the discrimination line is crossed. To begin with, religious grounds are protected in the first Amendment of the constitution. However, the line is drawn at discrimination. It is often argued in cases where religious grounds are used to deny services that businesses have the right to refuse service to customers. This rule although existent, The Federal Civil Rights Act allows for, “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin (Smolla & Antineu 27)”. As such businesses are compelled to serve people unless they are being cumbersome to the establishment by bothering other customers, distracting the staff through unruly behavior or destroying the premises thus allowing for the refusal of services.

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From this, it is concluded that businesses should not be allowed to deny services because they qualify as public accommodations under the law and thus are subject to discrimination laws. Furthermore, the doctrine of equality under the law allows for the equal treatment of all patrons. The first Amendment protects the Liberty of Religion and Conscience but the freedom from discrimination are protected by the Civil Rights Act. This allows for the interpretation by various courts through decisions made in same sex discrimination cases that businesses do not have the right to discriminate on religious grounds and thus their justification in their denial of service to certain minority groups is invalid and void.


In summation, discrimination by any measure should not be legally allowed in a country where a majority of the population is secular in practice. Thus this essay finds that laws like the one put in place in Indiana and other states like Arkansas and New Mexico advocate for the discrimination of minorities. It further outlines that the government takes a passive role in this debate due to the semi-autonomous composition of the country allowing for certain regions establish their own laws as such, the finding is that religious grounds are an excuse to allow for discrimination and should be mitigated to allow for equality for all as enshrined in the constitution.

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  1. DiGiacomo, Gordon. Human Rights: Current Issues and Controversies. , 2016. Print.
  2. Kotz, Nick, and Clay Risen. “Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The Cambridge Guide to African American History (2016): 60.
  3. Lederman, Martin S. “Reconstructing RFRA: The Contested Legacy of Religious Freedom Restoration.” Yale LJF 125 (2015): 416.
  4. Smolla, Rodney A, and Chester J. Antieau. Federal Civil Rights Acts. Deerfield, IL: Clark Boardman Callaghan, 1994. Continually updated resources.
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