The Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) is a bill passing through the Michigan legislature that is supported by many Republicans, namely Jace Bolger. It passed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 59-50 and is due to make its way to the Michigan Senate. If passed, it will go to Governor Rick Snyder, where he is sure to make the bill into law.
The RFRA bill has been dubbed the “license to discriminate bill,” which in essence is what the bill allows. The bill gives employers the right to use their religious denomination as a reason to discriminate against others. The bill gives no restrictions as to how discrimination can occur or in what places. Accordingly, anyone in any job, including governmental positions, could fire an employee, refuse service, or turn away an applicant if there were something that supposedly went against his or her religion.
One of the most troubling elements of the discrimination is that doctors, EMTs and nurses could refuse to do elements of their jobs, along with teachers or pharmacists. If someone is gay, a doctor–even though has sworn to treat patients in the Hippocratic Oath–can refuse to treat him, even if it is in an emergency situation; also, a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription for HIV medication or birth control if his or her faith deemed this immoral; a teacher can refuse to teach the student who comes from the home of a same sex couple.
The discrimination seems to be pointed more towards homosexuals, but could encompass other minority groups. A lot of the discrimination can come from initial judgement of race or religious denomination based on the sense of sight. All ethnicities can be affected. It isn’t only Christians who reserve the right to discriminate–although it may seem like they will be the majority who will– it is all religions.
Multiple issues come with the idea that religion is a basis for discrimination. It goes against the idea that church and state should be separate. It could be argued that illegalizing discrimination goes against the church, while legalizing discrimination based on religious ideals violates the rights of others. The RFRA will allow religion to become a basis of discrimination, and as a law, will in turn affect how people do their jobs. People could also falsify their religious ideals to remain intolerant towards people under the façade of religious freedom. Ironically, these people who claim to hold their faiths so dearly may, by denying them care, indirectly murder patients in clear violation of the sixth amendment.
Although it hides behind an innocent-sounding name, it will at best lead to discrimination, and at worst deaths. The RFRA is not a step forward towards freedom, but one backwards toward oppression.