Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum Join Religious Freedom Debate Over Denying Service To Gay Americans

Bobby Jindal

With the majority of states in the U.S. now having legalized gay marriage, opponents of gay marriage have had to move the goalposts back a bit to the issue of religious freedom. Gays might be able to get married, they say, but if a business doesn’t want to serve them based on their “sincerely held religious principles,” gay customers are out of luck.

Much of this started last month with the passing of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act allowed business owners to cite religious beliefs as a defense if they were taken to court, but also allowed businesses to refuse service to certain groups of people if they could argue that it would go against their religious beliefs.

Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, said that the media was mischaracterizing the law, but dodged the question of whether discrimination was now legal six times over the course of a single interview.

The law has since been amended, but the snowball is already moving.

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, said in an interview on Meet the Press that he felt uncomfortable with the idea of banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community because he didn’t feel such protections were necessary.

“I don’t think, certainly, that there should be discrimination against anybody in housing and employment. That’s not what my faith teaches me. I don’t think that’s appropriate, and I think the good news is that our society is moving in a direction of more tolerance. My concern about creating special legal protections is that historically, our country, we’ve only done that in extraordinary circumstances, and it’s not evident to me — it doesn’t appear to be one of those moments today.”

As The Huffington Post points out, there would be nothing special about these protections. Discrimination is banned against all sorts of factors, like age, sex, and religion, disabilities and race. Extending these protections to the LGBTQ community would only offer them the same protections that everyone else already has.

But to ask people like Jindal, as well as Republican politician Rick Santorum, laws like these are necessary to protect the constantly waning freedoms of religious Americans. Santorum explained that tolerance should go both ways.

“Tolerance is a two-way street. If you’re a print shop and you are a gay man, should you be forced to print ‘God hates f*gs’ for the Westboro Baptist Church because they hold those signs up? Should the government force you to do that? And that’s what these cases are all about. This is about the government coming in saying, ‘No — we’re going to make you do this.’ And this is where I think we just need some space to say, ‘Let’s have some tolerance — have it be a two-way street.'”

Many Republican politicians have been quick to say that they don’t support discrimination despite pushing policies that do just that, and ignoring the issue of tolerance unless it’s something they themselves want. The same Bobby Jindal who says there should be no discrimination against anyone is the same Bobby Jindal who spoke at a American Family Association rally to declare that he would never give up in his battle against marriage equality.

But since the fight against marriage equality has gone poorly over the past few years, the issue of religious freedom and the mythical assault on religious beliefs looks like it’s going to be what dominates the politics of civil rights in 2015, and perhaps beyond.

[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]