South Carolina’s Religious Freedom Law


robert-M.-Scott – By Robert Scott –

This past week saw lots of visibility for Indiana, the Hoosier State. Not only was Indianapolis the host site for the NCAA Basketball Tournament’s “Final Four,” but it was also the center of the most recent game in the continuing legislative tournament between two excellent teams: Tradition, and Progress. This week’s game involved the saga of Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (RFRA).

For those who may not have been following the state of political play, within the course of one week the Indiana legislature passed a version of a widespread RFRA – one of 20 states to do so – that recognized a business owner’s right to free exercise of religion; and then they passed a modification asserting that the law does not allow a business to discriminate against lesbian / gay / bisexual / transgender (LGBT) customers. Arkansas considered a like law this past week as well, with its legislature similarly modifying their proposed law to prevent LGBT discrimination. One of the other states with an RFRA law is South Carolina.

The creative tension between individual rights of business owners and that of potential customers is one that all South Carolinians who remember the 1960’s know well. Many businesses back then, particularly restaurants and the “hospitality business” (including hotels and motels), had prominent signs stating that “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” Tradition favored property rights; my business (the argument went) is private property, and I can allow or not allow access to my private property to whomever I see fit. Progress favored civic inclusion. One of the consequences of being licensed to do business is the legal obligation not to discriminate arbitrarily based on the owner’s prejudices – and in the 1960’s, those were mostly racial prejudices.

In 2015 the argument is framed somewhat differently. Now Tradition avers that if the discrimination is not arbitrary but is based on religious principles – being openly gay is an affront to my religion and I won’t condone it in any way – then I do have the right to refuse service to such people. And Progress argues the same way as it did in the 1960’s: what is or is not arbitrary should not be left to the business owner to decide – after all, thankfully there is a vast array of religious beliefs about all aspects of life – but should be moderated by society, and society has a vested interest in broadening prohibitions against discrimination.

The timing of Indiana’s RFRA law was on the heels of an unpopular judicial expansion of marriage rights, and this tie-in helped to explain why it was passed now – and why there was an immediate “push back” by so many not only on the political left but also from big businesses including Apple and Walmart. Discrimination, the businesses argued, is bad for business – including LGBT discrimination. South Carolina’s RFRA law, in contrast, was enacted in 1999, well before the issue of LGBT discrimination became mainstream. But it is mainstream now.

Tradition is a good thing. Religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, as well it should be. But as is the case for many rights, my right to exercise my religion expands up to the point where it infringes on your rights as a citizen, and no further. The question, as always, is where is that point. Progress is a good thing, too, and the location of that point moves with the passage of time. In legislation as in all aspects of our public life, we need to ask ourselves, “Where are we now? Where do we want to be in the future?” Those are not easy questions, but they are necessary ones – including a careful look at our own 16-year-old South Carolina Religious Freedom law. Once again, it is time for South Carolina to review where we stand.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Edgefield Advertiser.

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2 Responses to "South Carolina’s Religious Freedom Law"

  1. Robert Loar   April 17, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I was remiss in writing a rebuttal to your tilth because it had made the journey to the bird cage early and our obviously Republican leaning bird had made a suitable response before me.
    Whenever you use the word “progress” or “progressive” you should have a disclaimer asterisk. It should say “left leaning, atheistic, Christian bashing, caviler handing of the truth, lies, spin or excessive creativity allowed in the ideas herein held by the author.” In this article you stepped into an area of fabrication that I personally feel is too progressive even for you.
    You wrote, “thankfully there is a vast array of religious beliefs about all aspects of life – but should be moderated by society, and society has a vested interest in broadening prohibitions against discrimination.”
    My religious beliefs are NOT moderated by society. Whichever church you may attend can change the wording/meaning of the “good book” as the president calls it but my Holy Bible is not liberally interpreted by you or any other progressive spin agents. The words are clear and unambiguous. I have shelves of good books and I have a Holy Bible that is the inerrant word of God and not up for society, not you, not CBS nor the latest incantations of the liberal left to interpret.
    There was a time when God was clearly regarded as the source, sustainer, and end of all things. Since then, man’s view of God has declined. God is a name for whatever man thinks or feels Him to be. God is viewed as limited and proves upon inspection to be created in man’s image. Such deity is always kind, helpful, loving, and never judgmental! The ideal personal God is devoid of any moral dimension at all. He turns a blind eye to all our personal failings and tolerates our strange beliefs and our bad behavior. This is the view of God that is popular in many quarters. I label this progressivism.
    You clearly endorse reverse discrimination throughout your article. When someone refuses to serve someone due to their religious beliefs that is the signal for those of your ilk to call channel 57 and George Soros to get the smear campaign going. Get those 8-10 people to crank up the computers to send tens of thousands of e-mails to their business and anyone they could possibly do business with to boycott them, even threatening their lives and those of their families. Let’s also add that those e-mails have a common verbiage found in other attacks. Discrimination is wrong, reverse discrimination is just as wrong and purposely creating hate and discontent is plain wrong even where you live.
    You have the right to refuse to sell a drink or whatever to a customer who becomes irate, inebriated, physical, overly demanding or right down violent. They can go down the street to another business. That applies if they are right handed or left, tall or short. But that wouldn’t work for the progressive agenda de jour now would it? You also have the right not to buy insurance from Progressive Insurance (owner George Soros), or not. Does anyone see the word progressive in the title? Hmm what could it mean?
    Something about your article has caused an extensive, progressive dietary upset in my bird. Guess I will have to use the New York Times again or the Washington Post. Perhaps the spin has him dizzy.

  2. Charlie Smith   April 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Science is how we express knowledge. Religion is how we express lack of knowledge. That lack of knowledge (and the twisting of what substitutes for it) often devolves into willful ignorance and political agendas designed to harm those who are disliked.

    Yes, our government of the people must respect religion; but is it too much to ask that religion return the favor?