The State of Indiana made headlines last week when it enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. To be accurate, the State of Indiana enacted and applied the original 1993 federal Religious Freedom of Restoration Act to its own state constitution. Both laws essentially restrict the government’s power to impinge on one’s religious beliefs and practices unless the restriction furthers a compelling state interest and is applied in the least restrictive way possible.
The controversy in Indiana, however, is that many are saying it has passed in order to protect individuals and business owners who don’t want to cater or serve members of the gay community, because it is against their religious beliefs.
The law has been enacted in several other states, but the irony in Indiana’s case is that while Indiana Governor Michael Pence (Republican) was conducting the signing ceremony for the bill, paperwork was being filed with the Indiana Secretary of State for the First Church of Cannabis Inc., which believes very much so that smoking marijuana (which is not legal in Indiana) is a very fundamental element to their religious beliefs. That paperwork has been approved by the Secretary of State, and they were even congratulated on their approval. Ironically enough, church founder Bill Levin is seeking donations of $4.20 towards his non-profit Church of Cannabis.
Indiana attorney Abdul-Hakim Shabazz points out that state legislators, in their haste to pass this controversial bill for the sake of their religious constituents, have inextricably put the State of Indiana in a precarious position with those who claim marijuana smoking as an equally important religious value. Many agree with Shabazz as he states in his article that Indiana’s government has its hands currently tied over the matter, but that there will be an ultimate showdown in court over over these issues and how far the limits of this law can be pushed.