Feeling Unequally Yoked With Hoosier Hospitality

The Indiana version of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) that Governor Mike Pence signed last week has drawn so much criticism inside as well as outside Indiana that it may well be revised or “clarified” by this weekend’s Final Four basketball games in Indianapolis. The law does not, of course, explicitly endorse discrimination of any kind, but equally-of-course was intended as a signal to some–not all–evangelical Christians in Indiana that the state government had their back if their take on “Hoosier hospitality” was, let’s say, selective.

According to Second Corinthians 6:14, “be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? Or what partnership has light with darkness?” That is a world away from cosmopolitanism, but so be it. I do not believe that legislation could or should mandate cosmopolitanism, but it could and should restrain hatefulness and incivility when they go out, so to speak, in public. If those who wish not to be “unequally yoked” with the unwashed, the “unclean,” the “unrighteous” do not wish to be circumscribed or restrained by the law, no one is forcing them to go out into the arena with businesses that may be privately owned but operate on public streets, benefit from government-enforced limited liability laws, and provide public accommodations (which were required to be open and inclusive by multiple civil rights laws of the 1960s and multiple Supreme Court rulings since). Corporations are explicitly protected as “people” by the Indiana law in a way that challenges the legitimacy of “public accommodation.” I think that is one reason why the mainstream business community has responded so strongly against this law. Global corporations have no interest these days in suffering damage to their reputation and brand by associating themselves with bigotry, and are willing to be much more vocal about it than in decades past.

Indiana Republicans may have intended to send a message of solidarity and support sub rosa to their socially conservative voting base, which may feel aggrieved at the pace of change–but the “unequally yoked” thing does not seem to be working out quite the way they planned.

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