Indiana has become the target of a widespread boycott by left-wing campaigners and major corporations after Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” designed to protect business owners who would have to violate their own faith to accommodate some customers’ demands.
Two well-known examples are the Washington state florist who declined to endorse same-sex “marriage” with skills and the Colorado baker who made the same decision regarding his cake artistry. Both are being punished by their states now.
Some observers see the backlash as another sign of the growing intolerance of Christians and others who share traditional views on marriage and homosexual activity.
Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College and author of the upcoming book “Takedown: The Radical Left’s Assault on Marriage and the Family,” explained why the Indiana bill has merit.
“I totally understand that gay people want freedom and don’t want to be discriminated against, but neither do religious believers. And we do have this thing in America called freedom of religion. It’s the first right in the Bill of Rights. In a civil society of real freedom and real tolerance, both sides need to find a way to tolerate one another. Tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating only what you agree with. That’s not tolerance.”
Opponents of the Indiana law include the city of San Francisco and Star Trek actor and “gay rights” activist George Takei, who promoted the #BoycottIndiana hashtag on Twitter immediately after the legislation was signed.
#BoycottIndiana remained the top “trending” hashtag on the social networking site a day after the bill was signed.
However, the Hoosier State is also under serious economic pressure.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is holding the Final Four college basketball tournament in Indianapolis next week, condemned the bill in a statement warning the organization would “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
Former MSNBC host and current ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a “hate law” and demanded the NCAA go further by moving the Final Four out of Indiana immediately.
The tabletop gaming convention Gen Con is already threatening to pull the lucrative event out of Indianapolis when the current contract expires.
The crowd-sourced review company Yelp announced its own intention to boycott the state, with CEO Jeremy Stoppelman proclaiming, “It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.”
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff joined in with a tweet announcing his company was “canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.” CNN reported both pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce also opposed the bill.
Some organizations flying the banner of Christianity also are piling on. The Disciples of Christ denomination threatened to cancel its convention in the state, calling the legislation “hate and bigotry.”
But Michael Brown, an expert who holds a Ph.D. from New York University and is author of “A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,” contends religious believers are under attack, not homosexuals.
“I understand the concerns that this bill could be used to discriminate against others, including but not limited to LGBT people,” Brown said. “But in reality, bills like this are desperately needed today, as fundamental American rights are being sacrificed at the altar of LGBT rights.”
Kengor agrees, pointing to cases around the country where Christian small business owners were targeted because of their refusal to violate the tenets of their faith.
“Religious believers are finding that they need to take once unimaginable steps to protect their religious beliefs,” Kengor said. “What do you expect them to do when gay groups and liberals are suing florists and bakers and photographers all over the country?”
In a brief statement when he signed the bill, Pence said, “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.”
Ultimately, Kengor says, it is a defensive measure.
Kengor observes the economic campaign against Indiana is similar to one waged against Arizona when the state considered a similar law. After weeks of threats and media criticism, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ultimately vetoed the bill in February 2014.
“What Indiana is doing is a predictable response aimed at trying to protect the religious rights of religious believers,” Kengor said. “And when gay groups and liberals respond by boycotting and bullying, these believers will say, ‘See, I told you so.’
“Genuine respect and tolerance and diversity needs to be a two-way street.”
David Kupelian, author of “The Marketing of Evil,” says the LGBT movement is simply wrong when it compares “gay rights” to the civil rights movement.
“The core underlying problem is, the LGBT movement demands that sexual orientation be treated, legally and culturally, as identical to race and gender. That means, if you have a moral objection to participating, say as a photographer or baker, in the wedding of two homosexual men, you are the equivalent to a vile racist or Klansman. This moral equivalence between race and sexual orientation, which sounded OK to many in theory, now is coming under severe testing as it plays out in the real world. Americans, the vast majority of whom self-identify as Christians, don’t like being required to violate their core moral and religious values,” he said.
“Preferring not to celebrate homosexual marriage is not identical to discriminating against black people, and everyone knows it, including most in the LGBT movement.”
For that reason, Brown thinks Indiana’s experience is only the beginning.
“I believe we’ll see more and more bills like this coming into law in the months ahead,” he said. “And the gay bullying will ultimately backfire because Americans are a freedom-loving people.”