Religious freedom means you can believe in whatever the hell you want. You can worship God, gods, L. Ron Hubbard, Spider-Man, a flying spaghetti monster, a coffee mug, whatever. It's the American way.
What it does not mean is that you can use your belief system as a fallback to make your bigotry legal.
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a "religious freedom" bill into law. Supporters claim that the bill is designed to keep the government from forcing business owners from acting against their strongly-held beliefs. Translation: they can refuse service to gay people. In a statement, Freedom Indiana campaign manager Katie Blair said the following:
"This is a sad day for Indiana. Over the past month, Hoosiers who want our state to be open to everyone filled the halls at the Statehouse. We wrote letters and delivered them in person. We called until they stopped answering the phones. We made it clear that this law will only be used to harm other Hoosiers, and that's not the Indiana way."
Governor Pence maintains that the bill is "not about discrimination." Religion News thinks it sounds pretty discriminatory:
"Supporters of the law say it will keep government entities from forcing business owners—such as bakeries and florists who don't want to provide services to gay couples—from acting in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Gay marriage became legal in Indiana last year following an appellate court ruling."
Several local business owners and institutions have already condemned the law, including the NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis. Next week, the city is hosting the Final Four. Next year, they are hosting the Women's Final Four. In a statement, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the organization will work "diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill."
Hopefully more groups and individuals follow the NCAA's lead.