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April 2, 2015 1:04 pm

Indiana Jewish Organizations Join Criticism of Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Opponents of Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act have cited cases of wedding cake makers who refused to serve LGBT clients as examples of the kind of discrimination that the law could allow (illustrative photo). Photo: Michael Prudhomme of via Wikimedia Commons. – Members of the Jewish community in Indiana reacted to the state’s ratification of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The law, which was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last Thursday after passing in the Republican-controlled state legislature, states that a “government entity” cannot “substantially burden” what the law describes as “a person’s exercise of religion.” However, the law has concerned many due to a perceived loophole that could allow businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community in the state.

“I think the law is extremely backwards. It’s like we are regressing as a society,” Michael Steinberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana, told The Jerusalem Post.

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The Indianapolis chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) also expressed opposition, stating that the “statute will ultimately threaten religious freedom more than protect it, particularly minority communities such as ours…As members of a religious minority who have faced discrimination because of our religious practices, we deeply regret the inherent injustice this law potentially creates.”

In response to the criticism, Indiana lawmakers have unveiled a fix to the law that would prohibit businesses from using the law as a defense in court if they refused services to any customers based on “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service,” reported CNN. The state’s House and Senate are set to vote on the legislative fix Thursday, and then send it to the governor for immediate signing.

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