The bigger picture

Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an excuse for discrimination

Lauren Lukens editor-in-chief lauren.lukens@apps.schoolcraft.edu

Lauren Lukens
editor-in-chief
lauren.lukens@apps.schoolcraft.edu

“In God we trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956, and clearly appears in “The Star-Spangled Banner” and on U.S. currency.

Coinciding with the motto, the Republican-led House approved the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (MRFRA) in early December, which essentially states that people do not have to perform an act that requires any sincere religious belief to be substantially burdened. The act is modeled after a federal bill signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1993.

There are several loopholes in this act, and I believe it goes against the First Amendment right of freedom of religion. While the act promotes one to legally abide their religious customs in any situation, whether discriminatory or not, it allows those who worship other religions, or no religion at all, to be susceptible to mistreatment.

In response, the general media has been spreading cons of the act, while thinking about a narrow range of possibilities if it is approved by both the Michigan Senate and Governor Rick Snyder. For example, CBS News’ headline, published on Dec. 11, reads: “Bill would let Michigan doctors, EMTs refuse to treat gay patients.”

The act would not only affect gays, however, but anyone whose beliefs or traditions do not agree with one of another religion.

It seems that any congressional bill that advocates for religious freedom would be positive, as one of the most valued benefits of living in the United States is everyone has the right to practice their own faith. Nonetheless, approval from Governor Snyder could mean more hardships and discrimination in Michigan.

Not only would the act allow a medical worker to deny treatment to a homosexual if their religious beliefs are troubled, a Catholic pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control. Likewise, a Muslim shopkeeper could refuse to sell a bottle of wine to a fellow Muslim, citing his own Islamic belief of forbidding substances that are harmful to one’s health or well-being.

The proposed law directly contradicts Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which has protected state residents from all kinds from discrimination since the 1970s.

As Thanksgiving 2014 approached, national attention fell upon Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when two pastors and a 90-year old friend were charged and arrested for feeding the town’s homeless, which is a violation to the town’s ordinance. The previous month, in Houston, a group of ministers were told by the City Council that their sermons were required to ensure their language would not violate a recently

If the House-approved Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act is passed by the Senate, the bill will move on to the Michigan State Capitol, which is pictured above. There, Governor Rick Snyder could decide the bill’s fate. PHOTO BY JOHN BEUTLER|SENATE.MICHIGAN.GOV

If the House-approved Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act is passed by the Senate, the bill will move on to the Michigan State Capitol, which is pictured above. There, Governor Rick Snyder could decide the bill’s fate.
PHOTO BY JOHN BEUTLER|SENATE.MICHIGAN.GOV

passed ordinance. Similarly, the Jewish Orthodox family of a young man who died in a car accident in Clinton County, New York, was furious when the county medical examiner performed an autopsy despite the religious objections of the family several years ago.

While the MRFRA would protect citizens from witnessing their First Amendment civil-liberty rights eroded

by some sectors of society and government in such instances, the act is not worth the risk.

The truth about discrimination is that it is not truly based on membership in a particular group.

Discrimination is based on stereotypes, being able to pinpoint “tells” that tag certain people as a member of a certain community.

The MRFRA promotes those most vulnerable to become more vulnerable, and every demographic could encounter discrimination if passed by the Senate and signed by Snyder. Others and myself will leave the state of Michigan if the MRFRA is allowed to promote a level disgrace that permits discrimination in “the land of the free.”