If You Thought Indiana’s Law Was Bad, Louisiana’s “Religious Freedom” Legislation Is Far Worse (UPDATE)

Louisiana State Capitol at night. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Louisiana State Capitol at night. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Here in Louisiana, anti-gay bigots are likely chomping at the bit and wetting their white robes in excitement over new pro-discrimination, “religious freedom” legislation which a Shreveport Republican will be introducing to the state legislature soon.

Louisiana’s proposed legislation is not like the law in Indiana which could be used to discriminate against LGBT persons – it will be drafted specifically to allow discrimination. While Indiana’s governor has asked for their “religious freedom” law to have its language clarified to avoid the possibility of state-sanctioned bigotry, Louisiana is going for full-blown prejudice.

Yes, Louisiana had to go and outdo Indiana, because heaven forbid other states beat us in the race back to the 19th century.

From Nola.com:

State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, is drafting a bill that would prohibit the Louisiana government from denying a license, organizational papers and permits to a business based on the owners’ interpretation of marriage. The legislation may end up applying to local parish and city government as well, but Johnson hadn’t finished drafting it yet, he said.

Johnson said this measure would ensure that a business owner — a baker for example — who did not want to serve same-sex couples would not be able to get his license or incorporation approval pulled by the government for doing so. The same would apply to businesses who might anger the government by welcoming same-sex marriage.

“It is a protection for all persons regardless of their religious viewpoint,” he said. (Source)

This bill isn’t a copy of the law passed in Indiana which seems to be prefabricated for use by conservative legislatures across the United States; this is legislation that would go beyond that and sanction a very specific type of discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” If this sounds familiar, it is a very similar argument to one that Maurice Bessinger used unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court 50 years ago. Mr. Bessinger claimed that despite laws outlawing segregation, his religious beliefs trumped federal law under the 1st Amendment. Maurice Bessinger lost his appeal of Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises to the Supreme Court, in an unanimous decision of 8-0.

Back in the 1960s, the LGBT community was still decades away from acceptance and social conservatives were still very angry over the passage of the Civil Rights Act, much like their current fury concerning the landslide of court cases legalizing gay marriage across 3/4s of the United States. Just like Maurice Bessinger wanted to deny service to African-Americans, the right-wing wants to be able to discriminate against the LGBT community while claiming their religious freedom allows them to do so.

If passed, Louisiana’s bill would also be a gift to Gov. Bobby Jindal ahead of his inevitable 2016 presidential campaign. Gov. Jindal, who has already moved staff to Iowa ahead of the 2016 caucus, desperately needs something to finally woo the hearts of the religious right, and signing a radical law allowing discrimination against the LGBT community under the pretenses of religious freedom could be the golden ticket to capturing their vote. Jindal is expected to formally announce his candidacy in June after the state legislature’s current session wraps up. Needless to say, the timing of this legislation appears to be more than just a coincidence to me. This “religious freedom” law looks more like a political favor for Bobby Jindal, even though it will cost Louisiana thousands, possibly even millions of dollars to defend in court.

As Nick Gillespie over at The Daily Beast points out, religious freedom isn’t under any kind of threat. In fact, religious freedom is alive and well in America, if you’re a conservative Christian.

If religious conservatives are truly an embattled minority—didn’t you know that being anti-Christian is “the last acceptable prejudice”?—then why the hell are all prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination kowtowing to such folks in Iowa, South Carolina, and basically everywhere else around the country? And why did Ted Cruz, the first Republican to officially declare his presidential aspirations, kick off his campaign at Liberty University, founded by the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, which is proud of being “the largest Christian university in the world”? (Source)

State Rep. Mike Johnson’s proposed bill, much like the legislation in Arkansas or the law recently passed in Indiana, serves only to reinforce the narrative Republican politicians have been preaching to Christian conservatives for decades now. Religious freedom isn’t under attack in the United States, but our Constitution is, thanks to radical state legislatures across the country.

*Update* On April 3rd, the legislation was introduced as the “Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act.”


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