Indiana ‘religious freedom’ bill sparks discussion

Nicole Ares

WKU students are speaking out about controversial legislation in the neighboring state of Indiana. 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence recently signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. This law does not strictly discriminate based on sexual orientation, but opponents fear that it could give businesses the ability to refuse service or employment to homosexuals because of religious beliefs. 

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence told the newspaper The Indianapolis Star. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

Jon Hoehn, Indiana native and junior at WKU, believes that by allowing religious freedom to public business owners, there’s bound to be separation between people with different beliefs.

“We have worked so hard and so long as a country to end segregation across America,” Hoehn said. “Why bring in a new practice that could start it all over again?” 

Indiana is the 20th state to enact an RFRA. However, many of these other states also approved fairness ordinances that prohibit acts of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indiana has no such law. 

Briley Fichter, a sophomore from Newburgh, Indiana, thinks it’s an individual’s right to stand up for his or her beliefs.

“But to refuse someone because of individual beliefs is hypocritical and not appropriate for the business setting,” said Fichter.

Kentucky is one of the 20 states that have an RFRA enacted. But many Kentucky cities, including Lexington and Louisville, have also passed additional legislation to prevent discriminatory acts in the public establishments of their cities. 

Bowling Green is the largest city in Kentucky that still has no fairness ordinance in place. 

In January, members of the Bowling Green Fairness Coalition went to the City Commission with hopes to pass a fairness ordinance, but according to the Bowling Green Daily News, “no action was taken on the issue during the meeting.” 

Dora James, Western Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign organizer, is one of the major supporters of the equality regulation. 

“In Bowling Green, it is legal to kick someone out of their house or fire someone from their job for being gay, and a lot of people are surprised that this is legal,” James said. “I think that the Indiana law brings light to other states that are going through the same issues…  and ultimately I believe that Kentucky will pass an LGBT fairness law.”