Religion bills: Indiana and Arkansas fail to see the whole picture

April 6, 2015

Alexander Nedd
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I love history. But I don’t want to repeat it.

Learning about our past allows us time to reflect on the changes we have made, the obstacles we have overcome and the progress we continue to make as we march into the future.

Pictures and footage I have viewed of historical events have stayed ingrained in my mind as black and white. But they are a stark contrast to the colorful canvas full of current events that are experienced today.

A bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It has caused a tremendous uproar across the nation due to the potential for people to refuse services to gay people based on religion.

Despite bold statements and backlash from other states and major corporations, a similar law was passed in Arkansas a few days later.

On paper the law, which will go into effect July 1, states that their state government cannot “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious belief. In reality, it allows businesses to discriminate against individuals who might not conform to their beliefs, such as being gay or worshipping another god.

Even with later amendments that now incorporate sexual orientation, I still don’t feel comfortable with the premise. In fact, it illustrates how wrong the bill was in the first place.

For African-Americans, the measures sound dangerously close to laws that were in effect back in the 1950s.

As an LGBT individual, these measures truly scare me as to what a business can now proceed to do based on my sexual orientation.

Stickers such as “No Gays Allowed” have soared in Indiana, despite the law not yet taking effect. The mere thought of that picture brings me to the days of segregation.

What Indiana and Arkansas fail to see is that I wasn’t born gay. I wasn’t born black. I was born as a citizen of what is considered by many to be the greatest country on earth. A country whose founding fathers tell me that I was born with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Two of those three are taken away, giving these laws a failing grade.

This can’t continue in 2015, and it shouldn’t.

I am in no way opposing anyone’s religion or personal beliefs. But when your free will and thought overrides my free will and thought, then I have a problem.

LGBT people deserve the same rights and treatment as anyone who is heterosexual. How does this law prevent people from being discriminated by the color of their skin, a code of conduct every American knows is morally wrong?

People can refuse others just because of their religion; doctors can refuse to treat patients just because of their skin color, even when death is at the door.

It’s open season with an asinine law such as this one.

It’s sad to think that the person we love classifies us as a second class citizen, but that’s exactly what these laws define me as.

As actor advocate for equality George Takei says: “To cloak bigotry under religious freedom is still bigotry.”

When we open up the doors to hate, we fail as a nation.