There’s a picture of the signing of the latest legislation in Indiana, the governor and a group of priests, religious leaders and nuns. They are all smiling beatifically, radiating holy satisfaction. If you didn’t know better, you might think that the governor had just signed a law that would make sure that no-one in the state would have to suffer loneliness, sickness or poverty. Actually, Governor Pence had just signed a law that makes it okay to hate people so much that you refuse to serve them. And the church is just delighted.
Governor Pence of Indiana claims that the legislation simply limits the power of the state to force people to act against their religious principles. In practice, it seems designed to protect companies from being sued should they choose to refuse service on the grounds of religious belief.
I worked for a principal in North Carolina who was so motivated by religious belief that she used to shout at me in front of my students every single morning. When I tried to leave her school, she phoned every single school in five counties to out me as a lesbian. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between religious belief and hate, especially when you are on the sharp end.
There are quite a few of us on the potential sharp end of this act; the LGBT community, breast feeding mothers, Muslims, heavy metal artists and fans, possibly even Black Americans. All of us could be refused on the grounds that a service provider’s religious beliefs don’t include us. Being turned away and preached against feels a lot more like hate than like the expression of religious freedom.
And here is my question. Jesus says that His followers will be known by their love. In exercising religious freedom like this, who is the Church really following?