The state of Indiana made news this week when Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that claims to protect businesses and individuals from prosecution for refusing service based on one’s religious beliefs. But many suspect that it will also allow businesses to refuse service to certain individuals or groups by claiming religious beliefs.
There are a lot of details still being debated, but critics of the measure say it opens the door for discrimination, specifically discrimination of homosexuals, a group without any legal protections in Indiana.
The law, and the debate around the law, is multifaceted, and there are implications for many different kinds of businesses. But merchants are on the front lines.
It was a retailer that first opened the door to this law. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby could refuse to provide medical coverage based on the owner’s religious convictions, it opened the door for for-profit groups to exert religious freedom as a reason to create policy. And it’s the fear of many that Indiana’s law will allow businesses to refuse service to certain groups.
A boycott of Indiana has been called for and two large companies with a business interest or a presence in the state, have said they will no longer pursue new developments or physical expansion there. And several organizations, including Salesforce and the City of Seattle, have said they will not allow employees to travel to Indiana on business.
Fellow Forbes contributor and Indiana native Bob Cook, suggests that youth sports teams should avoid playing in the state in an effort to get the law repealed. “I’m sick as a native Hoosier to have the stain of this bill defining a land I hold dear,” writes Cook. “Sick enough to make me tell anyone in youth sports — until that law is gone, don’t go there.”